How Hotel Cybersecurity Keeps Guests and Data Secure

Hotels need cybersecurity: Although they don’t have the volume of transactions that big box retail stores do, their transactions are generally larger, and their guests have more at stake than just their groceries. But the personal information hotels store is only part of what’s at risk.

Breaking Down Hotel Cybersecurity

Hospitality organizations need to understand their vulnerabilities, as well as how to identify threats to their guests, property and data. Below are four key areas hotel cybersecurity teams need to focus on.

1. Instill Security as a Cultural Norm

Hotel security is a standard practice, but the focus has traditionally been around physical property. Guests rely on hotels to keep themselves and their possessions safe during their stays. When they have high-value items that need more protection than just the lock on their door, they turn to the room safe or, in some cases, safes managed by hotel security staff.

Guests may mistakenly assume the same level of protection extends to the digital assets that reside on their laptops and smartphones when they use hotel Wi-Fi connections. But hotels need to be certain they are delivering a consistent level of security to guests and their possessions, whether they are physical or digital.

2. Think Beyond the Credit Card

It’s obvious that all billing systems need to be secure to protect guests’ personal and financial information. But with centrally connected reservation systems, the exposure extends far beyond a single hotel’s booking system.

Hotels need to think about multiple endpoints and the remote connections they rely on to run the property’s operations. Electronic door locks, HVAC controls, alarms and a full range of Internet of Things (IoT) devices can fall under the control of cybercriminals aiming to disrupt normal operations.

3. Be Smart About Responses

Cybercrimes happen, and they need to be reported responsibly, but not all breaches need to be announced at the moment of discovery. Hotel managers should notify their security teams at the corporate level so that actions can be taken to protect related properties and their guests.

Take advantage of cybersecurity professionals who can identify sources of intrusion, assess the extent of the breach and provide details of the compromised material. Announcements of the breach surely need to be made quickly, but they should come after all the relevant information has been gathered and verified. That way, customers and their data can be properly advised and further exposures limited.

4. Don’t Sleep on Insider Threats

While malware and other sophisticated cybercriminal schemes certainly represent a formidable threat, the majority of data breaches are initiated by individuals within the organization. For example, an employee might steal data to sell it on the black market, or destroy or corrupt it for personal reasons.

More often, information is passed to criminals through social engineering, a practice that involves gaining small amounts of information over a period of time, generally from a variety of people within the company. The criminals are then able to piece together the bits of information to communicate with someone who might mistakenly divulge sensitive or protected information. Hotel properties need to devote time and effort to educating their staffs about these advanced threat techniques to protect their guests and their own reputations.

Securing the Hospitality Industry

Hotels are vulnerable to cybercrimes through a variety of avenues that break with the traditional physical security measures deployed across the hospitality industry. Keeping guests and their assets — both physical and digital — safe is paramount to preserving both the image and financial security of hotels.

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Scott Koegler

Freelance Writer and Former CIO

Scott Koegler practiced IT as a CIO for 15 years. He also has more than 20 years experience as a technology journalist covering topics ranging from software and services through business strategy. Scott publishes ec-bp.com, a supply chain industry newsletter and has written for publications including Network Computing, Forbes, Internet Evolution, and many others.