3 On Your Side

Alert: Hack-proof hotel keys

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Dorinda Purvis has a lot to keep track of when she travels. One thing she’s glad she doesn’t have to worry about losing anymore? Her hotel key.

Purvis explains, “I've been able to use an electronic key that you can access through your phone.”

Digital keys work through a hotel’s mobile app, typically paired with Bluetooth. It’s a technology in place at some major hotel chains. The high-tech keys allow you to skip the check-in process, give you instant access to your room when it’s ready and, of course, they eliminate those magnetic key cards.

“I have a hard time keeping up with plastic key cards sometimes. A lot of times, too they might lose their magnetism,” Purvis says.

Tech security expert Shawn Kanady says the convenience may come with risks.

Kanady's company gets hired by hotels looking to secure their systems. He tries to hack the mobile keys to find, and fix, vulnerabilities before criminals do.

Kanady explains, “As your phone is close to the hardware lock, it's sending the key through Bluetooth technology. That transmission was captured via an antenna, and then what the researchers did was they replayed that transmission to the lock, and were able to open the lock.”

Kanady explains his team also hacked in and changed some hotel administrator passwords.

“Once you have the administrator password it's game over for any application. At that point you can do whatever you want.”

Kanady stresses that he knows of no actual criminal hackings.

Marriott didn’t respond to our requests, but Hilton tells us, “…this innovation continues to provide a seamless and secure experience for our guests,” explaining there are safety mechanisms built into the system.

And Kanady says consumers can also help by removing any apps after they are done using them.

Purvis says for her, convenience outweighs any potential risks.

“I am notorious for losing the regular keys, so I really do enjoy the feature,” she says.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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