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Cybersecurity researchers have identified a software vulnerability in the locking systems that secure millions of hotel room doors worldwide, a flaw that could allow an attacker to clone a master key card for an entire building.
International cybersecurity firm F-Secure uncovered the software design flaw for digital keys produced by VingCard, a manufacturer of hotel locking systems. The brand of locks, F-Secure reports, are used at more than 40,000 properties in 166 countries.
Although attempts to clone electronic hotel key cards are not new, according to tech website Gizmodo, the hack designed by F-Secure can produce a master key for the entire hotel in just minutes using a regular hotel room key—even an expired one.
“It can be your own room key, a cleaning staff key, even to the garage or workout facility,” F-Secure researcher Tomi Tuominen told Gizmodo. “We can even do it in an elevator if you have your key in your front pocket; we can just clone it from there.”
Tuominen and fellow researcher Timo Hirvonen began researching ways to hack hotel room locks in 2003 after a colleague’s laptop was stolen from a hotel room during a security conference. The hotel dismissed their concerns since there was no sign of forced entry, so they began what turned into thousands of hours of research targeting a brand of locks known for their high levels of quality and security.
“We wanted to find out if it’s possible to bypass the electronic lock without leaving a trace,” said Hirvonen in a post on F-Secure’s website. “Building a secure access control system is very difficult because there are so many things you need to get right.”
F-Secure notified the parent company of VingCard—now known as Assa Abloy Hospitality—about its findings and has been working with the lockmaker’s R&D staff over the past year to implement software patches at affected properties.
Chinese scientists have created an environmentally friendly, fire-resistant wallpaper that also functions as a fire alarm. The wallpaper, made with a material found in bones and teeth, contains sensors that trigger an alarm when exposed to heat.
“The fire-resistant wallpaper … can be processed into various shapes, dyed with different colors, and printed with a commercial printer,” lead researcher Ying-Jie Zhu of the Shanghai Institute of Ceramics told Phys.org. “[It] has promising applications in high-safety interior decoration to save human lives and reduce the loss of property in a fire disaster.”
The wallpaper is based on hydroxyapatite, a normally brittle component of bones and teeth. The researchers formed long, thin nanowires of the material to create the flexibility needed for wallpaper. When exposed to the heat of a fire, graphene-oxide sensors placed on the back of the wallpaper become electrically conductive, setting off the alarm. —M.C.
Let’s fly, cowboys
The trade-off for a super-cheap flight in the near future might require you to—literally—saddle up. A saddle-style seat called the Skyrider 2.0, created by Italian aerospace interior design company Aviointeriors, positions the passenger nearly upright, trading legroom for head space. The saddle and a foot panel combine to support the passenger’s weight. The company claims its new design allows for a 20 percent increase in the number of passengers per flight, according to the website Co.Design. Weighing half as much as a conventional economy seat, the saddle seat could lower the fuel cost per passenger. Although no airlines have announced plans to install such seats, Aviointeriors claims interest is “really strong.” —M.C.