If we take the time to review certain relevant statistics, roughly 45% of the world’s population has internet access, which means an estimated 3,4 billion people. The endless positive possibilities it offers and the way it changes the way we communicate are sometimes overshadowed by the malicious courses of action taking place on the world wide web. The hospitality industry is taking some of the major blows when it comes to cybersecurity. Unauthorized access and attacks seem to be a daily occurrence and the protective measures implemented by hotels are sometimes insufficient.
The internet has infiltrated into every aspect of our everyday life; this is precisely why cybersecurity seems to be a burning issue globally. Security breaches in the hotel industry over the past few years, especially those in large chain hotels have proven that no one is safe from this virtual, invisible harm. A huge Marriott hotel breach was the one that opened the eyes of many and exposed the severity of this threat. The hacking exposed private data of up to 500 million guests of the hotel chain, thus proving that the computer networks of large companies are still vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The concept of the hospitality industry revolves around customers and the mastery behind knowing and targeting them, which requires a fair amount of personal information. Hotels are considered to be data treasure troves, storing millions of personal information of travelers. Taking a look at an average hotel stay will clarify where the risk is located; the entire process begins and ends with credit card information – one of the weakest spots for hotels. Every payment, be it at the hotel spa, online bookings or drinks at the hotel bar, credit card payments are required. Subsequently, there are two ways to hack a credit card; physically, using the card reading device, or virtually, only using access to the credit card details. The risk of lacking cybersecurity expands beyond guests’ credit cards.
The second vulnerable place is the hotel’s Wi-Fi, which can be used to access customer’s private data, through mobile devices and laptops, or hotel servers or databases might be the ones who leak the information. Privacy and discretion are paramount in the hotel industry and if a breach does occur and the protective measures fail to protect customers, these leaks have a large negative impact on business inquiries.
Generally speaking, the guest data is highly sensitive and always prone to attacks, given that it is stored on a long-term basis and thus the potential risk exists before, during and even after the stay in the hotel. This is why every hotel should place cybersecurity as a number one priority, in order to keep the trust and ensure an ever expanding business.
Should a breach occur anyways, the aftershock can take on big proportions, starting with the loss of customer trust in the hotel. It can even extend to legal problems, which can ultimately lead to time and money consuming lawsuits. The negative publicity will definitely deliver a blow to the hotel’s reputation, regardless if the story gets heavy media coverage or not; the consequential financial losses will be significant.
The obligatory protective measures should be placed to prevent cyber attacks from happening. Frequent staff training, regular system check ups and regular risk assessments are only the base of a good protection strategy. Hotel owners and their security teams should try to keep up with the latest hacker trends and work towards adapting to popular tricks. Insurance can also be one of the protective countermeasures and can take some of the load off the financial burden that might occur after the cyberattack. Furthermore, hotels should always prepare themselves for the worst case scenarios; an emergency plan should be devised and implemented immediately after the breach.
Being prepared and well-equipped in order to deal with such incidents creates a sort of a safety cushion that can help with managing and preventing potential threats in the long run. The best way to stay safe and protected is to adapt to all the novel situations that cyber criminals might use in order to harm your hotel and your customers. Staying up to date and implementing protective measures accordingly will ensure sufficient cybersecurity measures, thus saving you from potential bad reputation, bad business, money loss or even worse.