Hotels Sick Of Keycard Data Rumors, Looking For Alternatives

from the the-rumor-that-wouldn't-die dept

Remember the rumor about hotel keycards storing all sorts of data, such as your credit card info? It's the story that wouldn't die. Despite being called a hoax over and over again by a variety of sources, it popped up again a couple months ago in a Computerworld blog. Now, the NY Times has picked up on the story and says that hotels are so sick of answering questions about this that they're actively looking for alternatives to hotel keycards. Two other interesting tidbits in the article. The author of the Computerworld blog post, Robert Mitchell, who commented on our last post defending his original posting, is apparently collecting keycards from a variety of hotels and will try to prove that the data is on those cards. However, his original source will no longer talk to him and refused to discuss the matter with the NY Times reporter, claiming that the story had hurt his business. This is strange. If he's confident that he's right, then a simple demonstration would clear up any questions, make him a hero, shut up the doubters, and (you would think) help his business. It is possible, of course, that the key cards do contain the data, though it's unclear why that would ever make sense. Also, by now, given all the hype on this topic, you would hope that any hotel or keycard maker would have ditched such cards by now if they really did exist. Either way, we await Mitchell's eventual findings.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Khorsabad, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 4:40am

    high tech answer

    I stayed at a hotel on the Jersey shore the other day and the door had an amazingly robust and complicated security device on the door, which required a metal object with different sized teeth on it, to be inserted into a slot and turned.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Bob3000, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 4:51am

    Re: high tech answer

    I have heard of these devices. I believe the problem originates when the guests abscond with said device and, if the hotel does not replace the robust and complicated security device on the door, the guest would have access to the room at a later date.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Chris H, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 4:56am

    No Subject Given

    Whatever is stored on them... they don't do a very good job of *burning* it in. I've had to have my card reset a couple of times.... which is incredibly annoying.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:03am

    Re: high tech answer

    You mean a bit like a key?

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    NotBob, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:12am

    Re: high tech answer

    "You mean a bit like a key?"

    Wow, you are the swift one this morning. Bravo.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anon, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:43am

    Re: high tech answer

    This guy Mitchum is an idiot. Anyone that has ever stayed at a hotel using keycards and watched the clerk set it up can say without a doubt that the machine used to encode the keycard only holds room information. It isn't even hooked into the hotel's check-in system. Next thing you know, these types of people will have RFID's watching our every move from anywhere in the world.....nevermind it takes a CLOSE PROXIMITY transmitter to activate any RFID.....just plain idiots.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    loc_smith, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:49am

    Re: high tech answer

    only the tumblers need to be rearrainged or replaced and charged to the absconders credit card.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    nonanon, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:56am

    Re: high tech answer

    not in mitchums defense, but you better read up on your RFID tech before making comments on things like distances and activation.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    David, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 5:56am

    No key, No card

    Why not use a finger scan? Nothing to lose, nothing to turn in, nothing to take out of a pocket and everyone in the party can have one.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Bob3000, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:07am

    Re: high tech answer

    I believe that they stopped charging the guests years ago for expenses incurred for non-returned keys.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:10am

    Re: No key, No card

    Except those unfortunate souls without hands or arms.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Bob4000, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:20am

    Re: high tech answer

    Uh, maybe they could, like, start charging them again?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Evidica, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:22am

    Biometrics

    Why dont they just use biometrics doors with WiFi to update them. This way, they can track who is in the room.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Rick Murtagh, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:53am

    keycard information

    Ramesys Inc. writes software hotels use to manage their guest information. We interface to many different key card devices. Not one of those interfaces pass anything more than the reservation number (a sequential # assigned to every reservation), room number, checkin date/time, number of nights for the stay or the checkout date/time, and the guest name (usually just the last) to the device that encodes those keycards. The really cool ones can assign access levels for guests - like giving VIPs access to a VIP suite or VIP sauna instead of just the room.
    I should know. I am the director of programming.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Rick Murtagh, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 6:59am

    Re: No key, No card

    The problem with that is the cost of wiring all those door lock devices to the repository for the finger scan information. Keycard locks on rooms have kind of an autonomy. They have a battery that they run on and some parameters they use to act upon a keycard swipe.

    A finger scan would require an actual network connection to each door lock and a method of keeping that network (the cables even) secure so that they could not be tampered with and compromised. An unsecure system could potentially give anyone with a laptop computer access to every room in the hotel.

    Although the idea has merit and I would love to see stuff like that done...

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Bob3000, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 7:08am

    Re: keycard information

    Rick,
    Why don't you contact Mr. Mitchell? Open your doors to his "research".

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Clandestine, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 7:22am

    Re: No key, No card

    And how do you propose I lend my key to
    somone I don't want registered at the front desk?

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Bob50,000, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 7:26am

    Re: No key, No card

    give them the finger

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Capn Kangaroo, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 7:54am

    Finger scanners ?

    I am amazed that people dont see the dangers with biometrics. Once your info is input into computer systems, it can be copied and used for identity theft.
    With a credit card, you just cancel the transaction and get a different card number. But if bio-identification is compromised, you cannot change your fingerprint, DNA, or Iris mapping. Once you get scammed, you will have problems dealing with financial transactions and government agencies for the rest of your life.
    Technology may not exist AT THIS MOMENT to use stolen bio-ID, but in the near future it most certainly WILL exist.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    John, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 8:48am

    Re: Finger scanners ?

    What ever. Fingerprints can get hashed by the devices and all the business uses would be the hash. It's very easy to make hashes unique to every business. No problem. It's not like when you leave the room, they don't have your actual fingerprints on 8 dozen items in the room.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    elyk, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 8:57am

    Re: Finger scanners ?

    yeah they wouldnt even have to get into the room to get your prints...you touch the door knob when you enter, not to mention every thing else you come in contact with all they would do is follow you around and steal your fingerprints if they wanted them that bad.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    doubledoh, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 9:14am

    Re: Finger scanners ?

    I am amazed that people dont see the dangers with biometrics. Once your info is input into computer systems, it can be copied and used for identity theft. With a credit card, you just cancel the transaction and get a different card number. But if bio-identification is compromised, you cannot change your fingerprint, DNA, or Iris mapping. Once you get scammed, you will have problems dealing with financial transactions and government agencies for the rest of your life. Technology may not exist AT THIS MOMENT to use stolen bio-ID, but in the near future it most certainly WILL exist.

    Amen. I hate the mere idea of biometrics. It stinks of big brother and every distopian movie I've ever seen. Just because a few freaks don't understand card technology doesn't mean the rest of us sane folks should suffer slippery slopes. Hotels, keep your cards for god's sake and just blacklist idiots that don't like em.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Jesus, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 9:17am

    No and No

    For one I have never been asked the question working in the industry for many years. Second not one hotel will ever switch systems any time soon due to the costs for starting these systems and the security offered by a magnetic strip that can be reprogramed daily.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    doubledoh, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 9:17am

    Re: Finger scanners ?

    What ever. Fingerprints can get hashed by the devices and all the business uses would be the hash. It's very easy to make hashes unique to every business. No problem. It's not like when you leave the room, they don't have your actual fingerprints on 8 dozen items in the room.

    Because NO ONE has EVER cracked encryption or reverse-engineered hashing algorithms. Idiot.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 9:40am

    Re: Finger scanners ?

    And if they crack the hash, they dont get the entire finger print, only the unique points that were used to create the hash. Universal Studios recently began using finger print identification for their theme park tickets. Its not a security issue. Seriously, if someone wanted your finger print, there are MUCH easier ways to get it than hacking. Hmm, lets think, your car doors, room doors, a glass you left sitting somewhere public, anything you throw away. If you are seriosuly worried about someone stealing your biometric data, then cremate yourself, and launch the ashes into the sun....that MIGHT take care of it. Not to mention, rid the world of the paranoid idiots.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 11:12am

    Re: high tech answer

    why not use a keypad on each door. oh i forgot people don't like to remember numbers anymore... well then they can just plug the numbers into their cell phone and then call the door and ask it to open. maybe that will work

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Rick, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 12:47pm

    Re: No key, No card

    What if I don't have any fingers?

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    drew, Nov 9th, 2005 @ 3:36pm

    this is silly...

    ...and nothing will ever come of it.

    sensitive data is NOT stored on keycards.

    those tinfoil-hat wearing morons who are convinced otherwise should just stop staying in hotels

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Collin, May 20th, 2006 @ 6:38pm

    Universal Key Card

    Is there any way to make a universal keycard that had a decoder running through it so you could break in to someones hotel room?

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Khorsagood, Feb 12th, 2007 @ 6:46pm

    Re: high tech answer

    Apparently you don't remember all the problems that hotels had with keys back in the 70's when they were easily being copied/sold and the burglary/assault rate at hotels increased dramatically. In a place with many rooms like a hotel, the variation between keys gets smaller and smaller, leading to the problems that were handled by switching to keycard and magnetic card systems.

     

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