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I have seen all kinds of videos on YouTube demonstrating trivial methods of opening hotel safes, the kind that are in the room. In one video the guy opens the safe with a potato.

Are these videos using some kind of fake safe that is not actually used, or a in-room safes as insecure as the videos suggest?

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    I had one malfunction in Rio. Their master combination didn't work so they got someone to come and drill it open. It was about 8:30pm and the noise got complaints from neighboring rooms and so they had to come back to finish the next morning. So I can speak from experience, at least some of them are reasonable secure... – John3136 Sep 7 '17 at 23:14
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    @John3136 ...or maybe they just didn't have a potato. – Lemuel Gulliver Sep 7 '17 at 23:47
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    Out of interest I usually try "0000", "1234", etc. and google "default master code [MODEL]" and try that, when I stay in an hotel. I don't have exact numbers because I just do that for fun, but more than half of the time I succeed. It's also not only cheap hotels. I opened safes in my room and friends rooms in a large five star conference hotel with the super secure code "12345". Don't assume any hotel safe is secure! – Josef Sep 8 '17 at 8:32
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    I always lock the room safe on the chance a would-be thief will think my valuables are locked inside and move on or waste time trying to open an empty safe. – bob2 Sep 8 '17 at 14:35
  • Totally. The same as your a chain and lock, a car door, a car alarm, and lot of other things. The occasional thief will pass by, a decent one will open everything. Believe me, I speak by first hand experience...back in the days my brother could open and steal anything – motoDrizzt Sep 8 '17 at 18:18
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In-Room Safes are provided for peace of mind and to prevent petty pilfering by maids and room attendants. They are not super secure like a bank vault or a regular sized home safe.

The simple fact that guests frequently forget the combo they used (or lose keys if a safe is so equipped) means that the safes have to be easily opened by other means. Otherwise the hotels would spend a fortune calling locksmiths.

Some may well be as cheesy as the one used in your videos, but others are more secure and difficult to "crack". You can't really draw a blanket conclusion.

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    "Otherwise the hotels would spend a fortune calling locksmiths." Guests forgetting their combo or losing a key should pay for that on their own. Maybe the hotels could sell them an insurance. – glglgl Sep 7 '17 at 7:59
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    @glglgl It is still a major hassle from a logistics point of view. Imagine a guest checks out in the morning and the room is booked again in the same day. the maid has the clean it and fresh it up. Having a locksmith spent significant time and effort in that room to open the safe just screws up timelines. Its far more reasonable to have one or a few better safes at the reception and give guests the opportunity to leave stuff at the reception. – Polygnome Sep 7 '17 at 8:11
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    Isn't this why master keys are a thing? – Weckar E. Sep 7 '17 at 11:40
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    Having a master key is very different from being insecure. – pipe Sep 7 '17 at 15:18
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    Someone having a master key makes in-room safes even less secure. Consider the security of the master key, including when the key is physically at the manufacturer, the manufacturer's records allowing creation of a duplicate, all locksmiths that have ever created duplicate masters for the hotel, all hotel employees and ex-employees who have been in contact with the master key long enough to make an impression, ... – Technophile Sep 7 '17 at 23:17
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It is considerably safer than leaving your valuables under your pillow.

All safes are designed just to slow an attacker, or make an attack noisier, so that the likelihood of discovery is increased. They are not designed to prevent all attackers getting in.

For that purpose they do a good job. In fact if the safe is too secure, the attacker may just rip it off the wall, as happened to me on holiday one year. The attacker just crowbarred it off the wall and opened it later (police discovered it empty on a building site the next day.)

And the one in the video is definitely not near the more secure end of the hotel safe market :-)

  • For the last hotel safe I encountered, not even the crowbar would have been needed: the safe was just sitting in the cupboard, not anchored to anything :). I used it anyway, since a safe is a little harder to walk off with inconspicuously than a laptop... – Pont Sep 8 '17 at 8:59
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    @Pont Such safes are very common in hotels. In fact nearly every safe I've encountered is as you've described. The point of them is not to stop an external thief, it's to put off casual theft from hotel staff such as cleaners. They're not likely to walk off with the safe, but they might help themselves to some if they discover a pile of cash on the table. – JBentley Sep 8 '17 at 15:01
  • @JBentley Interesting -- I'd previously encountered at least a dozen bolted-down mini-safes in various hotels, but this summer was the first time I came across one just sitting loose in a cupboard. – Pont Sep 8 '17 at 15:27
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    I would disagree. For the thief the safe can easily be opened.. it's a very natural first place to look for valuables... while searching the room with little or no clues will be much more time consuming. – snoram Sep 9 '17 at 14:26
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    @RoryAlsop I know from real life that at least some big hotel safes can be opened with a simple number combinations - takes less than a second to open. If I was thief - it would be the first place to look for valuables. – snoram Sep 9 '17 at 19:34
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You have to put this in the context of all the other security measures. A hotel where I recently stayed has an elevator that requires swiping a key-card before use. There are cameras at the stairs, elevators and before the rooms. So, if something gets stolen, the thief will appear on camera. A log of all key-card swipes is kept. Now breaking into your room without a key-card is not easy, it would require a lot of time. This will be noticed on the security cameras during the attempt, so this won't happen.

Given this security situation, you're only going to be vulnerable to a hotel worker stealing your stuff unnoticed. The hotel worker gets in for cleaning, takes away something of value that you won't immediately miss, puts it in his/her pocket and gets out. If you only notice that this stuff is missing after a few days then it's not so clear who could have stolen it. It might have even have been accidentally lost on the streets, so you can't then use the key-card swipe data to narrow the culprit down to a single hotel worker.

The safe-locket is then a good measure to defend against this loophole. It forces you to collect valuable stuff, merely knowing that you did have possession of something a few hours ago, that this was present somewhere in your hotel room and is now not there anymore, will point to the hotel worker being the thief. So, even if the safe-locket can be easily opened, the hotel worker won't dare to do that. There is also no way for the hotel worker to physically remove the safe-locket and walk away with it, unnoticed. Taking a picture of your stuff before you close the safe-locket will make it this work even better,a you'll then have rigorous evidence to back up your case.

In a different context where you don't have much security in the hotel, a thief may well be able to steal items from a safe-locket and get away with it.

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    Nice answer. The only comment I have is that having a picture of your stuff in a safe doesn't sound like rigorous evidence that that same stuff was stolen and not just taken out by you and lost on the streets though ;) – Hans Janssen Sep 8 '17 at 7:59
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More secure safes are usually more expensive. In cheaper hotels you can assume that they will have bought the cheapest safes they could find. But even the interior decorators of more expensive hotels will usually care more about aesthetics than security.

Also keep in mind that the hotel staff will always be able to open the safe. Someone will have a master key/code in case you forget your personal code.

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