With the help of advances in technology, hackers can use an invalid room card to create a “master key” that can open the entire hotel building. As soon as the news came out, everyone was shocked. Many hotels have moved to higher security room cards, but some hotels may have not paid enough attention and still use room cards with security loopholes. That’s why we need to discuss the topic of hotel key card hack to explore ways to prevent them.

This article aims to shed light on the issue of keycard hacking in hotels, including what it is, how it is done, and the risks associated with it. We will also provide best practices for hotels to secure their keycard systems, and tips for guests to protect themselves from keycard hacking. By understanding the dark side of hotel key cards, we can work to create a safer and more secure environment for everyone involved.

Hotel key card hacking refers to unauthorized access to hotel rooms using a compromised keycard system. There is a hacking technique involved here, with this technology, everyone can enter your room without a trace. So, it is terrifying. 

The hotel room key card hacking history starts at the beginning of 21 century when Finnish security researcher Tomi was attending a security conference in Berlin, and his friend’s laptop with sensitive data was stolen from his hotel room. 

hotel key card hack 1

This case was always been a mystery. The door didn’t have any signs of violent entry, nor any abnormal show in the RFID reader made by the company Vingcard (its current owner: Assa Abloy Hospitality). Tuominen and his colleague Timo Hirvonen at F-Secure security company have not given up on this “cold case” research.

Fifteen years later, they discovered a huge loophole in the Vingcard Vision electronic lock system. Instead of simply cloning the RFID hotel key code, it creates a “master key” that can open all the doors of the hotel. 

It just needs:

  • A handheld Proxmark device.
  • A hotel key card may not even be a valid card.
  • A set of encryption techniques analysis for the Vingcard electronic master key code. 

The whole process takes even less than a minute, with which you can easily enter millions of hotel rooms.

Going back to the original case, did someone grasp the loophole of the smart lock at that time? Although the answer is still unknown. But the loopholes in hotel electronic locks have been proven.

It may take a long time to crack the Vingcard lock in a high-class hotel, but what about the electronic key card lock of an ordinary hotel?

It is evident that we should pay more attention to keycard hacking and learn the risks associated with keycard hacking and take steps to prevent it.

The Vulnerability of Hotel Key Cards

Hotel key cards have become a standard for accessing hotel rooms, but they are also vulnerable to hacking. The vulnerability of keycard systems is due to several factors, including outdated technology, lack of encryption, and poor security practices by hotel staff.

Outdated technology

Older hotel key card systems often lack encryption and other security measures, so it is not secure enough to protect against the tech-savvy hackers of today.

For example, many keycard systems use magnetic stripe technology. Magnetic stripe technology is susceptible to skimming, which is a technique used by hackers to steal information from the card. It is not as secure as newer forms of identification such as RFID or smart card technology.

Lack of encryption

In some cases, keycard information is not encrypted, which makes it easier for hackers to obtain and use the information stored on the card. That’s super dangerous and can put guests’ personal information and their stays at risk.

Poor security practices by hotel staff

Some hotel personnel may not be properly trained on the importance of security for keycard systems, and may engage in practices that put the system at risk. For example, staff may use the same key card for multiple rooms, or leave key cards unattended and accessible to others.

These vulnerabilities make keycard systems a prime target for hackers who seek to gain unauthorized access to hotel rooms. Hackers can use various techniques, such as skimming and cloning, to obtain the information stored on an access card and use it to gain access to a hotel room.

This can result in significant risks to the security and privacy of hotel guests, as well as financial losses for the lodging industry. To prevent this, hotels should use encrypted key cards and implement security policies for staff, and keep their technology updated. This ensures a safer and more secure environment for guests.

The Risks of Keycard Hacking

Keycard hacking poses a significant risk to both hotel guests and the hospitality industry. Here are some of the risks associated with keycard hacking:

Security breaches

Keycard hacking can allow unauthorized individuals to access secure areas or sensitive information, which can lead to serious security breaches.

Financial losses

Keycard hacking can result in financial losses for businesses and organizations due to theft, fraud, or other malicious activities. This can include costs associated with repairing or replacing compromised keycard systems, compensating guests for stolen property, and paying for increased security measures to prevent future incidents.

Privacy violations

Keycard hacking can result in the theft of sensitive personal information, such as bank card numbers or social security numbers, which can lead to identity theft and other privacy violations.

Legal liabilities

Keycard hacking can result in legal liabilities for hotel businesses, as they may be held responsible for security breaches or data theft resulting from a keycard hack.

Reputational damage

Keycard hacking can damage the reputation of businesses and organizations, as the public may view them as unreliable or untrustworthy.

How Keycard Hacking is Done

hotel key card hack 2


Skimming is a technique used by hackers to steal information from a key card. This is usually done by using a skimming device that is placed near a key card reader, such as a hotel elevator or electric lock. When a key card is used, the skimming device captures the information stored on the card, including the guest’s room number, check-in and check-out dates, and other details. This information can then be used to gain unauthorized access to a hotel room.


Cloning is a technique used to duplicate a key card. This can be done by using a cloning device that reads the information stored on a key card and creates a new, identical card. The cloned card can then be used to gain access to a hotel room.

Exploiting vulnerabilities in keycard systems

Hackers can also gain unauthorized access to hotel rooms by exploiting vulnerabilities in keycard systems. This can include weaknesses in the encryption used to secure the information stored on the key card, as well as vulnerabilities in the software used to manage keycard systems.

It is vital for hotels to be aware of these techniques and to take steps to secure their keycard systems, such as using encrypted key cards, implementing security policies for staff, and regularly updating technology. By understanding how key card hacking is performed, hotels can take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening and to protect their guests and their security business.

Preventing Keycard Hacking

Preventing hotel hacks is essential to protect hotel guests and the hospitality industry from the risks associated with keycard hacking. Some effective measures for preventing key card hacking include:

hotel key card hack 3

Regular firmware and software updates

Install official software fixes and regularly update the entire access control software. After all, Keeping the software and firmware of key card systems up-to-date helps address any known vulnerabilities and improve the system’s security.

Using encrypted key cards

Encrypted key cards use advanced encryption technology to secure the information stored on the card. This makes it much more difficult for hackers to access this information and use it to gain unauthorized access to hotel rooms.

Physical security measures

Keycard readers should be located in secure areas, and physical access to the central control system should be restricted to authorized personnel only.

Conducting regular security audits

Regular security audits can help identify keycard systems vulnerabilities and provide an opportunity to address these vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by hackers.

Use of smart card technology

Smart card technology, such as chips embedded in keycards, can provide a higher level of security than traditional magnetic stripe keycards, making it more difficult for hackers to replicate or intercept the signal.

Implementing security policies for staff

Establishing security policies and professional missions for hotel staff can help to prevent key card hacking by ensuring that staff is trained on proper key card handling and security practices. This can include policies for securing key cards when not in use, not sharing key cards with others, and properly disposing of used key cards.

Educating guests on key card security

Educating guests on key card security can help to prevent key card hacking by raising awareness of the fresh security risks associated with key card hacking and by providing guests with the tools and information they need to protect themselves.


The increasing use of keycard technology in hotels has also brought with it a rise in keycard hacking incidents. These incidents not only pose a threat to the privacy and security of guests, but also to the reputation of the hotel itself.

Hotels must take steps to prevent keycard hacking and to educate guests on the importance of keeping their keycards secure. This can include implementing stronger security measures for hotel lock systems, providing guests with information on how to keep their keycards safe, and regularly monitoring the keycard system for any potential vulnerabilities.

As hotel guests, we need to strengthen our security awareness while staying at a hotel. While there’s nothing we can do to prevent the keycard from being hacked, we can take some measures to deal with it, such as taking our valuables with us, putting them in the hotel safety box, locking the hotel door from the inside of the room (eg. using hotel chain lock.)


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