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Hackers Target Prominent Hotel, Lock Guests Out of Their Rooms

There's no denying that technology has done some wonderful things for modern humans. However, there are some cases when an otherwise useful system can be hacked and utilized for nefarious purposes.

A Not-So-Typical Case of Cyber Extortion

The Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, a prominent 4-star hotel located in Austria, takes pride in combining next-gen technology with a quaint atmosphere. However, this all came crashing down when hackers took control of their electronic key system and locked hundreds of guests out of their rooms. Those who remained inside were free to leave, although they wouldn't be able to re-enter until the incident was resolved.

As if this wasn't bad enough, the hackers wanted a ransom to restore the system. Having no other avenue to pursue, and wanting to resume service as quickly as possible, the hotel had no choice but to pay the ransom of 1,500 EUR in Bitcoin.

Christoph Brandstaetter, managing director at the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt, put the situation in his own words by saying: "The house was totally booked with 180 guests, we had no other choice. Neither police nor insurance help you in this case. The restoration of our system after the first attack in summer has cost us several thousand Euros. We did not get any money from the insurance so far because none of those to blame could be found."

The hackers stayed true to their word - at least at first. Once the ransom was paid, service was fully restored without any additional harm. However, the hackers kept backdoor access to the hotel's system. They attempted a series of additional attacks, but the hotel has since undergone several system upgrades and modifications that nullified the hacker's efforts.

Now the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt is implementing a system that will keep hackers away from their electronic key system for good; they're switching back to the traditional lock-and-key system. Without any digital systems to manipulate, the hackers will have no other choice but to look elsewhere for their next extortion attempt.

A Growing Concern

Online extortion is a growing concern amongst cyber security experts. While the scenario with the Romantik Seehotel Jaegerwirt is a unique case to say the least, it underscores the need for increased diligence in safeguarding today's computer systems.

The fact that the hackers demanded their ransom in Bitcoin raises another alarm. Given the digital and anonymous nature of Bitcoin, it will be incredibly difficult to track down the actual hackers who orchestrated the attack.

Moreover, the U.S. Justice Department reports that these sort of ransomware attacks are increasing. They jumped to an average of 4,000 individual cases per day in 2016 and caused nearly $210 million in damages within the first three months of 2016 alone. This is in comparison to the $24 million in reported losses throughout all of 2015.

Protecting Yourself

Although large corporations and enterprises are the typical targets of digital extortion or ransomware, consumers can be affected, too. It's recommended that all online users maintain updated antivirus and firewall software, but that's no substitute for technical knowledge and diligence on your behalf.

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