Why Cybersecurity in The Hospitality Industry is Paramount

The proliferation of technology in the hospitality industry should come as no surprise. Driven by a need to stay ahead in today’s highly competitive landscape, hoteliers are trying to leverage it to its fullest potential. From aiding in behind-the-scenes management to directly improving convenience for guests, technology is a core part of the modern hospitality landscape.

Hotels deploy a range of technologies at nearly every level. From entry to checkout, managing guest experience is highly technology-dependent. Whereas this reliance on technology brings numerous benefits to both the hotelier and the guest, it also increases organizational cybersecurity risk.

Here are four reasons highlighting why cybersecurity is paramount in the hospitality industry:

Reliance on digital systems:

Among many hotels in the world, keycard entry-based systems are already commonplace. Automation, smart devices and IoT-controlled appliances are gaining rapid popularity. Biometric security systems are seeing similar growth. Hospitality industry players have taken to these systems in light of the convenience and ease that they offer. But, if left unsecured, they can be exploited by cybercriminals resulting in devastating consequences.

A hotel’s website applications, networks and servers also need to be secured. Measures such as firewalls, network monitoring, malware protection measures and SSL protocols help ensure robust all-round cybersecurity.

The hotel’s wifi is another critical point that needs to be secured. Many of the hotel’s guests and visitors have unfettered access to it. Therefore, securing the externally facing networks is crucial to avoid them from becoming a potential attack vector. A compromised network can also be used to launch attacks on the guests’ devices or infiltrate into the hotel’s systems and infrastructure.

Data storehouses:

Hotels are a treasure trove of data for cybercriminals. Due to the nature of the industry and reliance on personal data, hotels tend to store vast amounts of guest data. Moreover, hotels often store sensitive personal data of their guests along with their payment information. Thus, making them a high-value target for hackers. The larger the hotel chain, the more susceptible it is to cyberattacks, due to the amount of potential information at stake.

The aftermath of a data breach may result in more severe consequences as well. For example, exposed data may be used to carry out financial fraud or identity theft. Expensive lawsuits and regulatory fines can also arise as a result of a data breach. For a hotel, being unable to protect your guests’ sensitive information will result in a loss of confidence among your customers and damage your reputation.

Reliance on payment systems:

Card-based payment systems are omnipresent in the hospitality industry. From online booking payments to in-house payments, financial transactions in hotels are critically reliant on these payment systems. Today, contactless payment systems are also increasingly prevalent.

Considering that card-based payment systems handle the vast majority of guest payments, they are among the most critical technological assets for a hotel. Thus, they need to be effectively secured.

There are also regulatory concerns when handling card-based payment systems. Every U.S. business that accepts credit or debit cards must comply with the PCI’s Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Failure to comply can result in fines of up to US$50,000 per incident. Organizations may even be liable for the losses resulting from the breaches.

Staffing challenges from a security perspective:

The hospitality industry faces a high turnover rate. Due to its seasonal nature in many places, hospitality industry service providers also witness a shifting employee base. With such conditions, cybersecurity training and measures regarding personnel are generally complex to implement in the hospitality industry.

But, spotting social engineering, phishing attempts and ensuring cybersecurity best practices require that the staff be well-trained.

To the majority of hotels across the world, technology-based services and applications are not just an added layer of tools but rather an integral part of their infrastructure. Hotels rely on a host of technologies to operate. If these digital systems are compromised, a hotel’s entire operations may be crippled. Thus, organizations in the hospitality space need to employ robust cybersecurity measures.

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