Recently Forbes.com published an article exposing a security flaw in common keycard hotel room locks that permitted hackers with a digital device to effortlessly trigger the opening of the locking mechanisms. This, of course, would allow the hacker to have access to the personal belongings inside the room or, worse yet, unwanted access to the guests themselves. The “security vulnerability” was said to be present in keycard locks built by a particular lock company and specifically in a model of lock that appears in at least four million hotel rooms worldwide. There are believed to be a number of “patches” to fix the issue, which vary in cost.
While the lock manufacturer in such an instance may certainly be responsible if its locks do not perform as intended, generally, a property owner or lessor, such as a hotel, has a duty to keep its guests safe from known or reasonably anticipated dangers. This begs the question of what is a hotel’s duty or obligation to its guests when it knows, or should know, that the locks present on the hotel room doors, which guests would reasonably anticipate are capable of keeping people out, are highly vulnerable to hackers.
To start, any hotel that has direct knowledge that its room door locking mechanisms, whichever they are, do not perform as intended and as relied upon by its guests, would be wise to immediately remedy the problem to ensure the safety and comfort of the guests. One could easily imagine the horrific publicity and liability if it was discovered that guests were losing property, being assaulted or otherwise attacked in the confines of their presumptively safe hotel room if the hotel knew that the locks were easily by-passed.
Often times, with new technology comes uncertainty with how it will perform and whether there will be “bugs” in the system. However, almost by definition technology has faults that its possessors must investigate, anticipate and seek to minimize. It would be wise for any hotel to understand what issues and/or risks exist with the technology it uses and develop a plan to minimize those risks and ensure its guests have a safe stay and come back again.