The Top 4 Cybersecurity Risks in Hospitality and How to Solve Them

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The Top 4 Cybersecurity Risks in Hospitality and How to Solve Them

At a glance

  • The main takeaway: Hospitality is one of the most vulnerable industries when it comes to cyber theft and fraud, especially under the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Impact on your business: In order to avoid damages and prevent threats from materializing, hospitality businesses must prioritize and address four, key security risks.
  • Next steps: Aprio can take the reins on cyber protection for your business and provide the solutions you need to stay secure.

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The full story:

The hospitality industry has endured a lot of turmoil over the past year and a half, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions and social-distancing measures have given way to steep occupancy declines and major overhauls in policies and procedures to ensure guests’ safety.

On top of these pandemic-induced challenges, hospitality businesses need to be wary of cyber fraud, which has also skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak. In fact, according to new research from TransUnion, digital fraud attempts against businesses have increased by 46% over the past year.[1]

Hospitality is one of the most vulnerable industries when it comes to cyber theft. Here are the prevalent risks to watch for, as well as basic solutions to help resolve them.

1. Stored guest data

Cyber thieves target hotels and hospitality businesses because they house a war chest of datapoints on millions of customers. Patrons pay for hotel stays, spa treatments, bar tabs and more with credit cards, opening up many different doorways to fraud attempts. What’s more, thieves often tap hotel wi-fi networks or servers and databases to access customers’ private devices or personally identifiable information.

Hotels store highly sensitive and vulnerable information about guests on a long-term basis, which opens them up to fraud both during and after their stays. One of the most basic steps businesses can take is to encrypt credit card transactions and other devices like employees’ desktop computers, tablets and laptops, and flash drives. It’s also important to utilize tools that safeguard against the most common and prevalent cybersecurity attacks. These may include anti-malware programs, firewalls, network monitoring and traffic filtering, which can all work toward protecting guests’ data and keeping it under lock and key.

2. Vulnerabilities in disparate systems and processes

Most hotels and hospitality businesses operate multiple locations, particularly if they’re part of a larger franchise. The issue is that even though these locations are connected by a singular management team and brand, they often do not employ the same security processes and standards. This type of environment can give way to vulnerabilities and give hackers more opportunities to conduct malicious attacks.

Not only is it important for your locations to uphold the same security processes and standards, but it’s also critical to have a comprehensive, united emergency plan to ensure everyone is on the same page when responding to a cyberattack. Having a plan, one that is updated and fine-tuned frequently, also empowers your business to respond to cyber emergencies quickly and efficiently, which reduces the damages caused by a breach.

3. Gaps in security knowledge and preparedness

Last year, 60% of global data breaches were caused by insiders or attackers exploiting internal computers.[2] One key preventive measure is to implement proper security awareness training. In many cases, these types of breaches are perpetuated by human error; it could be something as simple as leaving login credentials on a sticky note in public viewing at the reception desk or inadvertently clicking on a phishing email.

Proper cybersecurity training is an antidote to avoiding insider security risks. Make sure that every employee in every location of your business is educated on security best practices and your internal processes, and that they are equipped to manage sensitive data (for instance, guests’ personal information and requests) securely. You can also mitigate threats by deploying effective threat monitoring platforms that detect malicious activity in the environment. You also need to introduce multifactor authentication for system access.

4. Failure to deploy active monitoring and remove identified vulnerabilities

This is one of the biggest oversights hotels and hospitality businesses make. You must create and administer an active monitoring strategy, one that continually intakes and processes information to pinpoint anomalies that could lead to a cyberattack in your business. Many organizations use threat detection platforms to help automate the monitoring process.

To coincide with these efforts, you also need to proactively identify and remove vulnerabilities in your security program, as we discussed in point two. Remember that your cybersecurity program and protocols aren’t “one-and-done;” you need to run assessments on a regular, frequent basis to ensure you are successfully detecting and preventing true threats to your business operations.

The bottom line

With the right tools, best practices and team, you can protect your business against the most common cybersecurity risks and act quickly and efficiently if fraud does occur. At Aprio, our Digital Transformation and Cybersecurity Advisory team can provide you with greater transparency into operational security risks and help you prevent costly, dangerous cyberattacks.

Related resources

[1] “One Year after COVID-19, New TransUnion Research Shows Digital Fraud Attempts Against Businesses Have Increased by 46%,” press release, on the TransUnion website, March 23, 2021, https://newsroom.transunion.com/one-year-after-covid-19-new-transunion-research-shows–digital-fraud-attempts-against-businesses-have-increased-by-46/, accessed August 2021.

[2] Jeremy Goldstein, “What Are Insider Threats and How Can You Mitigate Them?” Security Intelligence, July 16, 2020, https://securityintelligence.com/posts/what-are-insider-threats-and-how-can-you-mitigate-them/, accessed August 2021.

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