July 2019 update: I had the perfect chance to try various generic codes, 0s, 123… and 999.. during my stay in the Hilton Peachtree City where the safe in my room was locked when I arrived – none of codes opened the safe.
I’ve seen a number of stories over the years regarding the security of hotel safes. These are the keypad operated safes that you find in most hotel rooms – you press reset, enter your own code, close the safe and press close. Obviously the hotel has a secret code that can also open the safe – otherwise the safe would be unusable if you forgot your code. That means someone in the hotel can open your room safe, although we hope that the secret code is kept secret.
The safes tend to be stand alone and battery operated. That’s probably a good idea as otherwise your valuables would be inaccessible during a power outage. Equally this means they aren’t connected to a centralised system, where each safe can have it’s own secret code. My guess is that the same secret code is used for all the room safes – can you imagine a hotel bothering to keep a log of secret codes, different for every safe?
But imagine if the hotel didn’t bother setting the secret code for every safe that was installed. What if they left the default code set by the manufacturer? The video below is by a YouTube user called ‘LockPickingLawyer’:
I’ve no idea if pressing # twice followed by a series of 0s, 123456 or (Hitler’s Password) 999999 will actually work, although I intend to try next time I’m in a hotel room with a safe. If you decide to experiment with your hotel room safe, don’t store your valuables, nor a bottle of Lagavulin – just in case there is some security lock out and you can’t get back in.
Even if the hotel has changed the default to their own secret code, your room safe is only as secure as the security procedures within the hotel.
Obviously any potential thief also has to gain access to your room, but that includes cleaners, maintenance and turn down service. In the past you could leave ‘do not disturb’ on the door handle, but following the gun attack from a hotel room in Las Vegas, hotels have stated that they can ignore those signs if the room is reported inaccessible for over a day.
The good news is that in all my hotel stays across the world, I’ve never had anyone steal anything from a room safe.