As We See It

Can tourists in Vegas (and across the world) trust hotel room locks?

Watching a guy pick electronic locks on hotel doors with a Sharpie—a guy who insists any “village idiot” could go online and learn how to do it in 30 minutes—is chilling. He’s Jim Stickley, a security expert tapped by the Today show to demonstrate the effectiveness of a homemade programming device hidden in the marker on Onity HT series keycard locks.

The Today segment aired last week, but the hack first made headlines in July, when software engineer Cody Brocious revealed its capability at the Black Hat information security conference hosted by our own Caesars Palace. A statement on Onity’s website says 1.4 million “solutions” (a free mechanical fix and technical options are available) have already shipped, with efforts ongoing. But widespread panic doesn’t pay much mind to corporate mitigation.

To address this specific threat and hotel security in general, we reached out to two parent companies and two independents on the Strip. Only MGM Resorts International—which does not use the Onity system—offered perspective. A representative said the company considers door security “a top priority” and has invested in the latest innovations. At Aria, for example, guests unlock their doors by waving keys in front of them, and “the high-tech door fixture cannot be manipulated by a would-be thief,” the representative said. In the midst of high-tech criminal developments, she added that low-tech safeguards are still relevant. Rule No. 1: “make sure your door is completely closed.”

If you’re headed to a hotel with Onity HT keycard locks, ask if they’ve been modified or replaced recently. Or, as Today advised: use the security chain when you’re in the room, and when you leave, use the safe or take your valuables with you. From now on, that should probably include your toothbrush.

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Erin Ryan

Erin got her first newspaper job in 2002 thanks to a campfire story about Bigfoot. In her award-winning work for ...

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