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Mar 22, 2024

The Saflok Vulnerability: A Wake-Up Call for the Hospitality Industry

rfid card reader

In an age where technology governs nearly every aspect of our lives, security vulnerabilities can pose significant threats, especially in sectors where safety and privacy are expected. The recent announcement of a significant vulnerability affecting Saflok electronic RFID locks has sent shockwaves through the hospitality industry, underscoring the fact that virtually anything is a target for cyber miscreants.

Understanding the Vulnerability

This announced vulnerability is one that could have impacted any vendor. It exposes a series of security flaws in Saflok electronic RFID locks typically deployed in hotels. The vulnerability allows attackers to forge keycards, granting them unrestricted access to hotel rooms. What makes this situation particularly concerning is the widespread deployment of this locking system, affecting millions of doors across thousands of properties in 131 countries across the globe.

Armis Labs first took note of activity in lock-picking forums in February 2024, which discussed the vulnerabilities in Saflok’s electronic RFID locks. The discovery that the Key Derivation Function (KDF) for some Saflok MIFARE Classic locks solely relies on the card’s Unique IDentifier (UID) to generate access keys. This underscores the inherent risks in using predictable or hard-coded cryptographic keys, classified under CWE-321. Reliance on the UID as the sole input for key generation significantly compromises the security of millions of these locks, making them susceptible to unauthorized access by exploiting the predictable nature of the UID. This revelation from Armis Labs’ diligent monitoring highlights the critical need for robust security practices, including comprehensive asset inventories and actionable threat intelligence to identify and mitigate such vulnerabilities proactively.

The Need for Comprehensive Asset Inventory

Accurate asset inventory is the cornerstone of an effective security strategy. It enables organizations to identify and assess potential vulnerabilities within their infrastructure. In the case of the Saflok vulnerability, hotels and other housing environments must gain a comprehensive understanding of their door-locking systems, including the specific models and software versions in use. Asset inventory, however, does not end with door locks, but rather extends to every device and asset that can be found, including computers, entertainment systems, reservation systems, and even HVAC systems. It would be preposterous to think that this is a “once in a lifetime attack” as other incidents such as MGM Resorts are but one of many cases in recent memory that have impacted the hospitality industry. This is part of a broader challenge impacting Operational Technology (OT) devices.

Maintaining an up-to-date inventory of all assets allows organizations to promptly identify vulnerable systems and take appropriate action to mitigate risks. In the context of Saflok, hotels with accurate asset inventories can swiftly determine if their properties are affected and implement remediation measures as appropriate.

The Importance of Vulnerability Prioritization

Not all vulnerabilities are created equal. The Saflok vulnerability highlights the need for effective vulnerability prioritization, especially in environments such as the hospitality industry where guest and ground safety is crucial. By prioritizing which locations or assets are highest on the list in terms of criticality, potential damage, and exposure, organizations can deploy remediation resources more efficiently, focusing on addressing the most critical risks first. In the case of the Saflok vulnerability, hotels must prioritize the upgrade and replacement of affected locks based on factors such as the number of doors impacted, what they guard, and the likelihood of exploitation.

The Imperative of Actionable Threat Intelligence

Detecting and responding to security threats in real-time is imperative for minimizing the impact of a cyber attack and preventing potential breaches. Actionable threat intelligence can enable organizations to identify suspicious activities and anomalies BEFORE an attack hits the wild, allowing for timely intervention and mitigation.

Actionable threat intelligence includes harnessing AI to learn hackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to form a proactive response. AI can meet hackers in the formulation stage and observe via dynamic honeypots, dark web activity, and HUMINT. Each of these areas is valuable in its own right. Combining all three with advanced AI can predict and thwart attacks with incredible accuracy often months before they are activated.

The Saflok vulnerability serves as a sobering reminder of the pervasive security risks inherent in today’s interconnected world. For the hospitality industry, where guest safety and security are paramount, proactively addressing the attack surface is of utmost importance. This is an industry still recovering from the devastating financial blow delivered by the pandemic, and further damage to reputation and bottom lines could take organizations to breaking point. By maintaining accurate asset inventories, prioritizing vulnerability remediation efforts, and implementing actionable threat intelligence mechanisms, hotels can enhance their security posture and mitigate risk. As attack surfaces and methods continue to evolve, proactive security measures are essential in safeguarding the integrity and trust of guest-facing systems as well as the infrastructure that is in place to support the industry.

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