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Hotel security breaches show urgent need for secure guest room control systems


Reports on hotels being held to ransom by computer hackers have starkly shown the risks of cloud-based guest room controls.

The simplest way to avoid this issue is to trust a system that is not based on internet protocols and completely secure, which is true of the GEM Wireless Intelligent Control System that we provide.

The most recent reports focused on the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt hotel in the Austrian Alps, whose services were severely compromised by hackers demanding a “ransomware” payment of €1500 in Bitcoin,

The hotel’s systems were frozen by the hackers who forced a complete shutdown of its computers and confirmed that controls of the key card system and room locks would be freed when the ransom was paid. Management chose to pay and the systems were restored.

Wireless internet threat

However, this was the third time the hotel had been targeted by hackers. It has closed the vulnerability on the systems for now but the threat for the hospitality sector is always present while crucial systems run on wireless internet protocols.

Cloud-based system issues have been widely recognised for a while now. For example, a cybersecurity expert staying at a five-star hotel in Shenzhen, China realised that the highly-automated room controls system was open to manipulation.

The hotel provided its guests with iPads and a “butler” app to control which provides guests with an iPad and digital “butler” app to control features of the room including heating, lights, and TV.

The security expert wrote a piece of code that ‘spoofed’ the guest iPad so he could control the room from his laptop and then was able to take control of the other rooms. He showed the hotel management the network security flaws and it moved swiftly to remedy that immediate problem.

Network access

Hotels are particularly susceptible to cyber attack as they need to provide guests with access to the network.

These security issues and threats are resolved with the GEM Wireless Energy Management, which uses the reliable 802 15.4 (ZigBee) wireless protocol.

The secure GEM system automatically resets room temperature to an energy conserving level, pre-selected by management, when guests or occupants are out of the room, using wireless passive-infrared (PIR) sensors, wireless entry/balcony door switches, and a transceiver control module that can connect to the HVAC system.

As well as being free from cyber-attack, this smart HVAC control solution can reduce HVAC energy costs by 30-35%. In a busy hotel environment, we have seen annual savings of £35,000.

Localised wireless

The GEM solution is also ideal for controlling school and university classrooms, student accommodation, meeting rooms, offices, hospitals and retail stores.

The localised wireless technology can be connected to control all major HVAC systems and can be installed in typically 60 minutes. Unlike other systems it does not rely on sensors alone as this type of solution or a simple key card switch can be easily breached.

Find out more about the GEM solution here.

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