January 26, 2017
One of Europe’s most luxurious hotels has admitted paying 1,500 euros (£1,279) to cyber blackmailers who hacked into their electronic key system and locked scores of guests in their rooms.
The hackers promised to restore the system at the Seehotel Jaegerwirt in the Austrian Alps quickly if 1.74 bitcoins (1,500 euros) was transferred to them.
The managers of the four-star lakeside hotel at Turracher Höhe in in Styria said they had decided to come clean about the incident as a warning to others.
They are now planning to remove the entire electronic keycard system and replace it with old-fashioned door locks and keys so they can never fall victim to such a ruse again.
When the gang struck new keycards could not be programmed and the only alternative would have been to break down the doors manually.
Managing Director Christoph Brandstaetter said: ‘We had no other choice. The house was totally booked with 180 guests. 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.’
He said more needed to be done by police forces and IT companies in Europe to tackle cybercrime.
Mr Brandstaetter said they had been hit three times by the cybercriminals, who managed to lock all the doors, trapping many guests inside and some outside their rooms.
The attack, which coincided with the opening weekend of the winter season, shut down all the hotel’s computers, including the reservation system and the cash desk system.
Mr Brandstaetter said: ‘Every euro that is paid to blackmailers hurts us. We know that other colleagues have been attacked, who have done similarly.’
After the ransom was paid the hackers unlocked the key registry system and all the hotel’s other computers.
The Seehotel Jaegerwirt, which has existed for 111 years and is now owned by the Romantik Hotels chain, has now replaced all its computer systems.