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Nordic Choice Hotels bounces back from ransomware attack with ChromeOS Flex

July 14, 2022
Kari Anna Fiskvik

VP of Technology, Nordic Choice Hotels

Nordic Choice Hotels bounces back from ransomware attack with ChromeOS Flex

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Editor’s note: Today’s post is by Kari Anna Fiskvik, VP of Technology at Nordic Choice Hotels, now Strawberry, one of the largest hotel companies in Scandinavia. When a ransomware attack shut down operations, Nordic Choice hotels chose ChromeOS Flex to quickly recover by repurposing Windows devices. This enabled the business to sustainably bounce back while providing security against future attacks. 

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When word spread among Nordic Choice Hotels that the business was hit with a ransomware attack, paralyzing most network systems—including the one operating digital room key cards—we envisioned hotels being shut down for weeks, if not months. Amazingly, this massive security challenge was solved in just one weekend with ChromeOS Flex. We were able to recover by installing ChromeOS Flex, replacing Windows, on our devices. It was so easy to deploy. We provided a one-page guide along with a ChromeOS Flex USB to employees and they were able to convert 2,000 computers in 48 hours across 200 hotels in 5 countries. All with minimal help from IT.

By the Monday after the ransomware attack, all systems were running as normal. Without ChromeOS Flex, the business might have lost as many as six weeks recovering from the attack. With ChromeOS Flex and our emergency manual backup routines, we didn’t even have to close our doors for one hour.

In response to a ransomware attack, a rapid rollout of ChromeOS Flex in 48 hours

We were running a ChromeOS Flex pilot program at a couple of hotels with the intent of a company-wide rollout a few months later. When our infrastructure provider alerted us to the ransomware attack, which was starting to lock up key business systems, we agreed that trying to clean and repair existing Windows systems and networks would be a tremendous strain on our workforce. Out of our 220 hotels, 90 percent were affected by the ransomware attack, along with 5,000 computers.

Fast-tracking the ChromeOS Flex deployment was the best option. We skipped our planned change-management program, and went straight to preparing quick instructions on downloading ChromeOS Flex onto a USB stick and loading it onto laptops and desktops. It only took about 10 minutes to install ChromeOS Flex on each device. 

At the same time this process was happening at every hotel, our senior leadership was at a meeting in Oslo monitoring the progress, with some of us attending remotely. When we realized that ChromeOS Flex was working, there were a lot of happy smiles, and even some tears. We’d come out on the other side of the attack in only about 48 hours.

We got all the customer systems up in 48 hours. Then we decided to fast-track ChromeOS Flex for as many computers as we could, and that would be our top priority. And that basically saved us from four to six weeks of work.

Kari Anna Fiskvik, VP of Technology, Nordic Choice Hotels

A sustainable solution that supports digital innovation 

As a company, we have a strong focus on sustainability & digital innovation—for our customers as well as our employees. We have a “people, planet, and profits” model and want to give employees sustainable technology to help with their day-to-day functions while providing guests the best experience possible.   

Our computer systems were aging, but making very large investments in new hardware wasn’t a welcome idea at a time when our business was being cautious about spending. We wanted a creative and sustainable solution to our digital innovation.  

ChromeOS Flex checked all of these boxes for us. ChromeOS Flex is easy to deploy, and the Google Admin console makes it easy to centrally manage and maintain. That was important to us. We don’t have IT teams in every hotel and we don’t want to burden employees with tech troubleshooting that takes time away from serving guests.

We also wanted to take the burden of network security away from employees. We have around 17,000 people who speak 70 languages. To give them all security training would be a massive job. With ChromeOS Flex, we have a secure operating system that lets employees do their jobs without the need to become trained security experts. 

As my Nordic Choice colleague Kjetil Neergaard, our Green Tech Manager, explains, Flex is also helping us meet our sustainability goals. 

“Together with the research company Px3, we have seen that over the next eight years we will save as much as 1.5 million kilos of CO2 with Flex,” Kjetil says. “That amounts to 2,000 acres of a mature forest. And in addition, it saves 20 percent electricity for our computer usage.” In total, we expect to save NOK60 million (US$6.7 million).

What is most important to our customers is the friendliness of our staff. And that is also one of the most important things for us in technology to focus on—making solutions that are easy to use for the staff, because that means they can be great hospitality people.

Kari Anna Fiskvik, VP of Technology, Nordic Choice Hotels

Happy employees equal happy customers

Even though we had to adopt ChromeOS Flex on a much faster timeline than we expected, we met every goal on our list. As of early 2022, we’ve installed ChromeOS Flex on about 5,000 devices. 

ChromeOS Flex turned a disaster into an upgrade. Technology is something that we want to be invisible to our guests. When it's working at its best, we can focus on giving guests the best experience possible. Our employees are happier because with easier-to-use technology, they have more time to take care of guests. We really believe that happy employees equal happy customers, and our customers always point out the friendliness of our employees. 

At a stressful time when we thought our business would be down for weeks, we landed on our feet in just a few days. That alone tells us that we made the right decision in choosing ChromeOS Flex. Employees and IT are so happy with our ChromeOS Flex devices that we’ve also purchased 100 new Chromebooks to add to our fleet. 

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