Data – it’s the currency of the modern age. The truth is that information is far more valuable than cash, which is why a growing number of criminals are far less interested in penetrating a business’s bank accounts than they are in stealing the information contained on its hard drives.
This information can be invaluable to hackers for any number of reasons. It can give them access to proprietary information, which they can then sell on the black market, for instance. It can also give them access to consumer personal and financial information, allowing them to steal identities and ruin lives.
There’s a notion out there that only big businesses are at risk of data breaches, but the truth is that hackers are not discriminating. Even small hotels can have their systems hacked and their data stolen. The good news is that there are things you can do to improve data security in hotels. In this post, we’re going to discuss vital steps to improve cyber security in the hotel industry and what you and your team need to know.
Train Your Staff
One of the first considerations when it comes to data security in hospitality businesses is to ensure that your staff is trained. The majority of data breaches today stem not from direct attacks but from human error. It’s all too easy for employees to make a mistake that leaves your data open to hackers who are all too happy to exploit it.
Some of the most common employee mistakes that can lead to data breaches include the following:
- Being victimized by phishing emails or phone calls
- Not changing passwords at all or often enough
- Using easily guessed passwords
- Writing passwords down and keeping them on a computer
- Not logging out of systems when finished with a task
It’s important that you train your staff to avoid these mistakes and to know the signs of a phishing email or phone call. Note that phishing is growing rapidly and has even been adapted to target CEOs and business owners (called whaling in this instance).
In addition to staff training, hotel network security also hinges on having the right cybersecurity tools in place. These should be regular parts of your digital network and should be in place already. If they are not, it’s critical to install them immediately. Some of the most common types of tools/equipment you need to have installed include the following:
- Firewalls, both digital and physical
- Network monitoring devices to detect intrusions and trace access attempts
- Traffic filters to block known and suspected malicious IP addresses
- Anti-malware software to prevent and uninstall malicious software that might be installed either intentionally or inadvertently
- Antivirus software to remove viruses and other threats (often bundled with anti-malware software)
It’s not enough to install these tools, though. You also need to conduct penetrating testing to determine if they’re configured properly to defend your hotel against attacks. If you do not have your own in-house IT team, you’ll need to outsource this task to a specialist.
PCI DSS Compliance
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, better known as PCI DSS, includes a range of standard practices and procedures designed to help safeguard credit card information. If you accept and process credit cards, you are bound by law to comply with PCI DSS standards. The goal here is to ensure that everyone from the cardholder to the merchant processing the credit card to the payment gateway developer does everything possible to prevent attacks and avoid breaches.
Perhaps the single most important part of these standards for hotels is encryption. All credit card transactions must be encrypted at the point of transaction and then decrypted on the receiving end. So, pay attention when choosing a payment gateway, as this will be the encryption point.
You also need to pay attention to your PMS. It should be PCI DSS compliant, but not all platforms are. Lack of compliance puts your guests’ financial information in jeopardy but can also land you in hot legal water if you fail to comply with PCI DSS standards.
Updates on Your Devices
We get it. Updating all your workstations and other devices is a pain. It can mean long downtimes as patches and upgrades are applied. That can cause disruptions to the flow of work and, in some cases, may even inconvenience your employees or guests.
Regardless, it’s imperative that you update your devices whenever necessary. Schedule updates to occur when they’re least disruptive, but do not skip them. They include important hotel network security updates and patches for known exploits. Failing to update devices is another leading cause of data breaches in businesses.
Back-Up Your Data
Data backups are vital for all businesses, including hotels. You should back up your data on a regular basis – daily is preferable. Without regular backups, a breach could leave you with no way to move forward. This will also be of value in case of disasters and other emergencies that might damage your network.
Get into the Cloud
Finally, it’s important to discontinue on-premises systems. That doesn’t mean you should do away with computer workstations entirely, but you should begin the shift to a cloud-based PMS that’s PCI DSS compliant and built to deal with the realities of today’s situation in terms of security in hotels.
Secure cloud-based systems can be more challenging for attackers to target because they’re less centralized than on-premises systems. Additionally, when they’re designed with modern digital security in mind, they provide a robust defence against malware, viruses, and other types of threats.
When everything is said and done, data security in hotels is a critical topic. However, there is no one-and-done solution. You will need to train your staff, invest in the right tools and equipment, ensure that you’re PCI DSS compliant, focus on updates and backups, and move into the cloud to protect your business’s information, as well as your guests’ financial and personal information. With that being said, cyber safety is possible! It simply requires the right tools and knowledge combined with a proactive stance toward defeating cyberattacks.
Hotelogix Editorial Desk
Hotelogix’s team of researchers and writers are constantly innovating to share the latest trends from the travel and hospitality space. Got suggestions? Write to us on [email protected]