It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the RFID lock systems that the hotels use aren’t as secure as they should and master keys can be produced using inexpensive hardware that then can be used to access any room or facility.
Finnish security researchers were able to find a vulnerability on Vingcard’s previous generation Vision locks that are in wide use and can basically generate master key using discarded key card within a minute or so.
Here’s an excerpt from the Wired (access their piece here):
With a $300 Proxmark RFID card reading and writing tool, any expired keycard pulled from the trash of a target hotel, and a set of cryptographic tricks developed over close to 15 years of on-and-off analysis of the codes Vingcard electronically writes to its keycards, they found a method to vastly narrow down a hotel’s possible master key code. They can use that handheld Proxmark device to cycle through all the remaining possible codes on any lock at the hotel, identify the correct one in about 20 tries, and then write that master code to a card that gives the hacker free reign to roam any room in the building. The whole process takes about a minute.
“Basically it blinks red a few times, and then it blinks green,” says Tuominen. “Then we have a master key for the whole facility.”
Here’s press release from F-Secure where these researches work:
Helsinki, Finland – April 25, 2018: F-Secure researchers have found that global hotel chains and hotels worldwide are using an electronic lock system that could be exploited by an attacker to gain access to any room in the facility. The design flaws discovered in the lock system’s software, which is known as Vision by VingCard and used to secure millions of hotel rooms worldwide, have prompted the world’s largest lock manufacturer, Assa Abloy, to issue software updates with security fixes to mitigate the issue.
The researchers’ attack involves using any ordinary electronic key to the target facility – even one that’s long expired, discarded, or used to access spaces such as a garage or closet. Using information on the key, the researchers are able to create a master key with privileges to open any room in the building. The attack can be performed without being noticed.
“You can imagine what a malicious person could do with the power to enter any hotel room, with a master key created basically out of thin air,” said Tomi Tuominen, Practice Leader at F-Secure Cyber Security Services. “We don’t know of anyone else performing this particular attack in the wild right now.”
The researchers’ interest in hacking hotel locks was sparked a decade ago when a colleague’s laptop was stolen from a hotel room during a security conference. When the researchers reported the theft, hotel staff dismissed their complaint given that there was not a single sign of forced entry, and no evidence of unauthorized access in the room entry logs. The researchers decided to investigate the issue further, and chose to target a brand of lock known for quality and security. These security oversights were not obvious holes. It took a thorough understanding of the whole system’s design to identify small flaws that, when combined, produced the attack. The research took several thousand hours and was done on an on-and-off basis, and involved considerable amounts of trial and error.
“We wanted to find out if it’s possible to bypass the electronic lock without leaving a trace,” said Timo Hirvonen, Senior Security Consultant at F-Secure. “Building a secure access control system is very difficult because there are so many things you need to get right. Only after we thoroughly understood how it was designed were we able to identify seemingly innocuous shortcomings. We creatively combined these shortcomings to come up with a method for creating master keys.”
F-Secure notified Assa Abloy of the findings and has collaborated with the lockmaker over the past year to implement software fixes. Updates have been made available to affected properties.
“I would like to personally thank the Assa Abloy R&D team for their excellent cooperation in rectifying these issues,” said Tuominen. “Because of their diligence and willingness to address the problems identified by our research, the hospitality world is now a safer place. We urge any establishment using this software to apply the update as soon as possible.”
This makes me wonder how secure these latest generation locks from the same company Assa Abloy and others really are? If some researches have been able to figure out the ins and outs, surely hackers have too?