By Jeff Mason
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (Reuters) – It may not have been a hacking, but a computer outage at the hotel where U.S. President Barack Obama resided this week could not have come at a more inconvenient time.
The president flew to San Francisco on Thursday to preach the benefits of better corporate cybersecurity practices. The entire two days he was in town, the computer system at his upscale hotel, The Fairmont, was down.
“There’s certainly no evidence to say anything was hacked or compromised,” said Thomas Klein, the hotel’s general manager, noting the irony of Obama’s attendance at a cybersecurity summit during the same period.
“It’ just a coincidence in timing.”
Upon arriving at the hotel on Thursday night, members of the president’s entourage were told that the hotel’s operating system had stopped working. Rather than swiping credit cards at the front desk, they filled out paper forms instead.
By Saturday morning, the problem still had not been fixed.
At checkout, a hotel employee took guests’ email addresses in order to send them their receipts.
Klein said he alerted the Secret Service about the issue.
“They checked into it … and they said no, they have no evidence of any hacking,” he said. “It was a hardware issue that impacted the hotel operating system.”
A Secret Service spokesman declined to comment.
At Friday’s summit, Obama asked U.S. corporate executives to cooperate more with each other and the government in defending against hackers after high-profile attacks on companies such as Sony that exposed weaknesses in U.S. cyber defenses.
Obama left San Francisco on Saturday morning for California’s Palm Springs area, where he is spending the weekend golfing.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Lamarque; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)