The Importance of Cybersecurity in the Hospitality Industry
The hospitality sector is heavily reliant on technology to run its operations smoothly. From online bookings to in-room entertainment, hoteliers use technology in almost every activity. The digital landscape has made it easier for criminals to hack into networks and steal data. In 2017, a total of 26 data breaches suspected or confirmed to have exposed at least 500 records were reported, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. In the same year, there were more than 1 billion cyberattacks in the US alone. As we can see, the hospitality industry is not immune to cyber threats.The primary reason why the hospitality industry is an easy target for hackers is that it holds a lot of valuable personal information. Guests provide sensitive personal information such as credit card data, passport details, and home address when making bookings. Also, hotels have a massive inventory of personal data that they need to protect, including guest names, phone numbers, email addresses, and room preferences.Cybersecurity attacks can have far-reaching and disastrous financial and legal implications. In 2017, the total cost of a data breach was $3.86 million. Big brands have sustained extensive cybersecurity attacks that resulted in hefty monetary losses. Marriott International suffered one of the biggest cybersecurity breaches in history in 2018, where data from nearly 500 million customers were compromised. This incident resulted in a fine of $123 million, and Marriott’s reputation took a significant hit.
The Risks of Cybersecurity Breaches for the Hospitality Industry
Cybersecurity threats in the hospitality industry can come from different areas. Here are some of the areas that pose the biggest risks:
Point of Sale Systems
Point of sale (POS) systems are a significant target for cybercriminals. These systems are used to process guest payments in restaurants, bars, and other facilities. POS systems are attractive targets for cybercriminals because of the wealth of personal information they hold. Whenever guests swipe their cards, they leave behind their credit and debit card numbers. Hackers can intercept these numbers and commit identity theft.
Hotels are now relying heavily on their websites to generate business. Guests use the hotel’s website to book rooms, make payments, and order services. Websites are also home to a tremendous amount of personal data. Criminals often target websites for SQL injection attacks, malware, and cross-site scripting. When successful, these attacks can give hackers access to personal data, payment information, and other sensitive data stored on the hotel’s servers.
The proliferation of mobile devices has created new cybersecurity challenges for the hospitality industry. Guests use hotel wifi to surf the internet, log in to their work systems, and shop online. Some also connect their personal devices to hotel networks, making them vulnerable to malware attacks. Cybercriminals can gain access to personal information on these devices or use them as gateways to the hotel’s systems.
How to Protect Guest Information and Payment Data in the Hospitality Industry
The hospitality industry can prevent cybersecurity attacks by implementing strict cybersecurity measures. Here are some best practices that hoteliers can adopt to protect their guests’ personal data and payment information:
Ensure Network Security
The first step in protecting guest information is to ensure the security of hotel networks. Hotels should install up-to-date security software, firewalls, and other measures to prevent unauthorized access. They should also conduct regular security audits to identify potential vulnerabilities in their network systems.
Hotels must educate and train employees on how to recognize and report cybersecurity incidents. Staff should know what suspicious activity to look out for and how to respond to an attack. They should also be equipped with basic cybersecurity knowledge to avoid making common mistakes that could jeopardize the security of the hotel’s data.
Encrypt Payment Data
Encryption is an effective tool in protecting payment data. Hotels must encrypt all payment data received during a transaction. By doing so, even if the data is breached, it will not be decipherable to the cybercriminals.
Partner with Cybersecurity Solutions Providers
Partnering with a cybersecurity solutions provider is an excellent way to ensure the safety of guest data. Trustworthy cybersecurity solutions providers offer advanced solutions that can detect, prevent, and mitigate cybersecurity breaches in real-time. They can also provide 24/7 monitoring and threat remediation services to keep networks secure.
Real-Life Examples of Cybersecurity Breaches in the Hospitality Industry
The following examples highlight the severity and potential impact of cybersecurity breaches in the hospitality industry:
In 2015, Hilton Worldwide suffered a massive data breach resulting in 350,000 accounts being compromised. Hackers successfully stole credit card details, email addresses, passwords, and other personal information in the cyberattack. Hilton Worldwide was later fined $700,000 for failing to follow security protocols and not encrypting sensitive data.
Hyatt hotels confirmed that it had discovered unauthorized access to guest payment card data in late 2015. The company later admitted that 250 hotels in 50 countries were affected, with hackers making off with details such as cardholder name, card number, expiration date, and internal verification code.
In 2018, Marriott International disclosed that hackers had accessed the personal information of 500 million guests in a data breach that occurred over four years. Personal data such as names, addresses, passport numbers, and other sensitive data was obtained by hackers. The breach caused a considerable loss of customer trust and reputational damage for Marriott International.
In conclusion, the hospitality industry must take cybersecurity seriously to safeguard guest information and payment data. Cybersecurity breaches can cause severe financial and legal implications for hotels and their guests. Therefore, it is imperative to take best practices seriously to avoid cybersecurity breaches. This includes ensuring network security, partner with cybersecurity solutions providers, training staff, and encrypting payment data. By doing so, hotels can continue to provide a comfortable and safe experience for their guests.See you again in another interesting article.