This post is written by Stig Andreassen, PROJECT Manager at G Cloud NORWAY
About the customer
Nordic Choice Hotels is a hotel chain with more than 210 hotels across the Nordics and the Baltics.
The problem / challenge
Since summer ‘21, Devoteam G Cloud, Google and Nordic Choice Hotels had been working together on a project to upgrade a number of endpoint devices. Together all partners agreed on deploying Chrome OS Flex (formerly CloudReady) to replace a great number of ageing Windows devices at virtually every hotel in the chain throughout every location. Devoteam G Cloud and Nordic Choice Hotels started the first phase of the pilot late November at a few hotels in Oslo. Just as everyone was looking forward to completing the pilot phase, winding down for the holidays and doing a lessons learnt something happened: Nordic Choice Hotels was hit by a ransomware attack. On December 2nd, the hotel chain was hit by a ransomware attack, crippling operations and posing a large security risk for any vulnerable device on the network. Hotel operations went back to the stone age and essentially became fully manual, causing long delays. Returning to normal operations looked unlikely in the short term, and very labour intensive in the long term, the situation presented few good options.
Within hours of being informed of the incident our project was identified as virtually the only way to return hotels to normal operations quickly. Everyone involved dropped what they were doing and went all-in to implement the project as quickly as possible.
The solution: Wipe and convert every infected device from a windows device to Chrome OS. The Chrome OS Flex devices (formerly CloudReady) were not affected by the ransomware, any Windows device on the network would be reinfected and useless in moments. Additionally, the customer has a number of Chromebooks in the organisation from before and we had gained experience with the Chrome os Flex devices (formerly CloudReady) from the pilot phase. We hit the big red button and dived in the deep end.
Something we’d like to highlight especially before we get into more of the solution is that the personnel actually doing the majority of the work are non-technical personnel. The installation was largely done by the local receptionists, general managers or any available administration staff that happened to be at work these days. This was possible due to the simplicity and reliability of Google Flex, a clear communication package and knowledgeable support staff.
The project initially timed to be a ~4 months gradual deployment went into overdrive. To achieve the fastest implementation phase we have ever faced, multiple assets were crucial. Two of these were a crystal clear communication package and creating the actual USB boot sticks that would be used to install CloudReady.
- Devoteam G Cloud had already developed a first version of a communication package that was created for and elaborated on during the pilot phase. This package was used to guide the hotels and contained an installation guide, FAQ and in-depth documentation. During the full deployment phase, Nordic Choice Hotels took ownership of the package in coordination with Devoteam. We remained an active contributor to the package during the implementation.
- Distribution of installation packages went old school, each location bought a number of USB sticks and followed a step by step guide to create a boot image. Creating one such stick took one person about 20 minutes. Each installation, from wiping the device to it being ready with a new operating system and ready to use for the hotel took 10-15 minutes.
Devoteam and engineers from Google provided a support team available to the customer near 24/7 troubleshooting everything that came up from the various hotels during the incident period.
Finally, looking back at the project much of the credit goes to Nordic Choice Hotels themselves, their response team worked tirelessly and diligently throughout the incident. From a Devoteam perspective our main contribution was the device analysis to identify which devices could be safely converted, and which locations should be prioritised. The initial creation of the communication package and finally our ongoing support during the incident.
We converted nearly 2000 devices in 48 hours with another 1000 over the weekend. A project meant for 4 months in a controlled rollout was completed in 4 days.
It was simply amazing to see things falling in place at a neckbreak speed as this was. It was possible thanks to the amazing teamwork of 3 partners: Nordic Choice Hotels, Devoteam G Cloud and Google’s Chrome Flex team. All provided their best to the project and the results are worthy of the history books.