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Should You Use the Safe in a Hotel Room?

Should You Use the Safe in a Hotel Room?


Last year, Jim Stickley of Stickley on Security posted a controversial YouTube video. In two minutes, he demonstrates how easily someone can crack an ordinary hotel safe. The video serves to caution vacationers not to trust their valuables to the safe.

Contextually, the video only shows the lock-picking process. It does not mention how a burglar could enter the premise. As well, it assumes a level of skill in the thief many people do not have.

In truth, hotel management does have means into all safes. This is not to comprise security but rather prevent lockouts. For example, if the guest forgets the password or loses the key, management must retrieve the contents. This backdoor into the safe is what the video exploits.

Some Safes Are Better than Others

The oldest safes you will find use only keys. Management always has a spare for aforesaid reasons. In many respects, these safes are no better than locking your luggage. That said, softshell baggage is easy to cut along the seams and zippers.

Most modern hotels use safes with electric keypads. These allow guests to set a unique PIN to unlock them. How easily the PIN is overridden determines its level of security:

  1. Keypad Overwrite: Management enters a pre-determined sequence of numbers to bypass the PIN code.
  2. Safety Key: Management inserts a master key before entering the override code.
  3. No Override: Management requires a PC or handheld device to hack the mainframe and retrieve the PIN.

Preventive Measures When Using a Hotel Safe

Electric safes typically log override events. This gives management special information for reported cases of theft.

Generally, electric safes are more security than key-locked ones. That said, you should still practice caution before placing your valuables inside. Here are a few protective measures:

  • Wipe the keypad with a cloth before setting a PIN;
  • Check how well-fastened the safe is to the wall or unit;
  • Attach a secondary padlock if the safe allows for one.

If you’d prefer not to store valuables in the safe, you can also leave them at the front desk. This promises greater liability protection but is also inconvenient.

When in doubt, ask the staff what their policies are on in-suite safes and their optimal usage.