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The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

Dorms switch to keys after student compromises keycard security

A Saint Louis University student compromised Grand Hall’s key card system and broke into another student’s dorm on Nov. 7, 2023, resulting in numerous changes to how students now access their dorms. 

The student used a machine to copy key card information to gain unauthorized access into another student’s dorm. In response, the university has forgone the digital system and returned to physical lock and keys for the time being. 

“Following a thorough investigation, we believe we have identified the extent to which the unauthorized access privileges were used to enter living spaces and buildings. We found no physical harm or theft of property connected to these unauthorized entries,” the University statement said. 

After the incident, the university reported that they seized the device used to copy the key cards.

Students living in Grand Hall, Spring Hall, Robert May Hall and Grand Forrest immediately switched to using physical keys for their rooms, but will still be able to use their key cards to park, print, eat and access buildings on campus.

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In the email to the SLU community, the University cited that the switch to keys was to improve the security of campus spaces. The switch was due to an incident involving a student worker in the central housing office.

“This student worker somehow obtained a flipper, a card skimming device, and used it to copy the credentials from a high-up housing and resident life staff member’s key card,” said a resident adviser, who asked to stay anonymous, due to the relatively sensitive details of this story. 

The RA explained that the student who did this was not the one who did the breaking-in, he was allegedly just doing a favor for a friend. 

“Using the credentials from the staff’s ID, he then gave his friend master access to the residence halls, which gave her the ability to enter any room she wanted. This allowed her to enter and search her ex-boyfriend’s dorm room,” the RA said. 

The RA explained that the resident whose room had been illegally entered, spoke to his RA after he noticed that things in his room had been tampered with, and they reported the incident to Housing Residence Life (HRL) through the reporting system. 

From there, the scam unraveled and Housing quickly realized what had occurred and that changes needed to be made so that this kind of break-in could not happen again. The RA said that both students involved in the security breach no longer attend SLU.

The changes were implemented quickly. Housing staff was informed of the situation on Nov. 6, and the general SLU community a day after. HRL handed out hard keys in the two days that followed and ID scanner access to individual rooms was turned off on Nov. 10. 

A sophomore who lives in Spring Hall, Rawan Alhachami, said the quick process and situation left her shocked.

“I was afraid and kind of shocked,” Alhachami said. “I was under the pretense that in the buildings where you had to scan, it was safer than having a physical key because it was easier to pick a lock than to hack a scanner, but I stand corrected.” 

This is her first year living on campus after commuting last year. She expressed concerns about how easily physical keys can be replaced, as she has worked in residence halls where they have needed extra room keys for months. 

Amal Khan, a sophomore RA at Spring Hall, said that she has heard concerns and complaints from residents since the switch to the keys. 

“A lot of frustration is being voiced from students who do not like the change, understandably so. I think it’s a little humbling for a lot of the Spring and Grand students who are not used to the physical keys,” Khan said.

Many of the frustrations seem to come from how sudden the change was, with students – especially freshmen who have never had to use hard keys – struggling to get their keys to fit in the lock, getting them stuck or having trouble remembering the physical key. 

Dr. Manisha Ford-Thomas, director of HRL at SLU, said her first reaction after the incident was to meet with a group of people from across campus to brainstorm the fastest and the quickest ways to support students.

The doors in the dorms have both physical and key card locks as a failsafe for any emergency, such as power outages, a security compromise or if the scanner just happened to malfunction, according to Ford-Thomas. 

Ford-Thomas said that this security breach was not something they could have expected or planned for, but there is a reason there are backup measures in place. 

“We look to be as technologically savvy as we possibly can, but at the same time technology changes, so there might be some things that have changed between when the original design was in place and today, and so we are always continuing to adjust to the most recent information that we have,” Ford-Thomas said. 

She said that the university prioritizes students’ safety, and that was why the decision to go back to physical keys was made since that is sure to be secure for residents. 

According to Ford-Thomas, the next step is to see if the university can return to using technology as a lock system in the dorms. Ford-Thomas said the priority is ensuring the community can feel comfortable and secure with new technology before it is implemented. 

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About the Contributor
Mariya Yasinovska
Mariya Yasinovska, Copy Editor
Mariya Yasinovska is a junior studying English and Communication at Saint Louis University. She enjoys storytelling and poetry and believes in always standing up for what is right. In her free time, you can find her at a local coffee shop drinking a chai or going to concerts around the area. Email her at [email protected]
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    MashaFeb 13, 2024 at 3:57 pm

    What was the card technology deployed?