JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If you're planning a spring break trip, you may find you and your family are staying at one of the many hotels now offering digital room keys. That means you don't get a plastic card to get into your room, you just use your smartphone and the hotel app.
Dorinda Purvis is glad she doesn't have to worry about losing her hotel key anymore.
Purvis said, "I've been able to use an electronic key that you can access through your phone."
Digital keys work through a hotel's mobile app, typically paired with blue tooth and are used at some major hotel chains.
The high-tech keys allow you to skip the check-in process, give you access to your room when it's ready and the technology eliminates those magnetic key cards that can sometimes lose their magnetism....
Tech security expert, Shawn Kanady, says the convenience may come with some risks. His company gets hired by hotels looking to secure their systems. He tries to hack the mobile keys so they can find and fix vulnerabilities before criminals do.
"As your phone is close to the hardware lock, it's sending the key through blue tooth technology," Kanady said. "That transmission was captured via an antenna. Then what the researchers did was they replayed that transmission to the lock and were able to open the lock."
Kanady says his team also hacked in and changed some hotel administrator passwords.
"Once you have the administrator password it's game over for any application," he explained. "At that point you can do whatever you want."
Kanady stresses though that he knows of no actual criminal hackings. Plus, hotels take lots of precautions. Hilton, for example, says it has extra safety mechanisms built into its system. The digital keys are only assigned to known guests on known devices associated with that particular Hilton rewards member. It also requires a unique security certificate to unlock the door.
Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.