Ensuring Cybersecurity in the Hospitality Industry: Safeguarding Restaurants and Guests

The hospitality sector is vast and multifaceted. It’s an industry that thrives on providing essential services such as accommodation, mealtimes, and travel experiences, not to mention leisure pursuits. The onslaught of the pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, but the industry is bouncing back.

We’ve noticed, however, that these businesses aren’t out of the woods yet. Why so? Cyber threats loom large. It’s become clear that hotels, resorts, and restaurants—any entity under hospitality’s umbrella—must take decisive action. Implementing top-notch security measures is non-negotiable to safeguard sensitive information. We are here to help you safeguarding restaurants and guests from various cyber threats. Here is a selection of cybersecurity tips that will help you.

Cybersecurity in the Hospitality Industry

If you’re in doubt about the value of hospitality protection, here’s one of hundreds of examples. In the first month of 2023, following initial denials of a security breach, Hilton ultimately conceded to a severe cyber incident. This breach affected an estimated 500,000 guest reservations.

Subsequent to this event, it’s worth noting that Hilton previously encountered legal repercussions—specifically, a hefty $700,000 fine. This penalty was imposed due to two earlier breaches occurring in 2015. During these breaches, critical personal data, inclusive of credit card information pertaining to 350,000 patrons, was compromised. Scrutiny into these incidents revealed that towards the year’s close in 2014, malware, designed to siphon credit card information, had been detected.

#1 Create Defenses Against Social Engineering

Cybercriminals use social engineering to manipulate individuals – like your employees – into giving away sensitive information. For hotels, this could look like someone posing as a hotel staff member or tricking guests into revealing their information or clicking malicious links.

Here are a few social engineering examples:

  • Phishing: Phishing is a very common social engineering attack and occurs mainly via email. These are emails that seem to come from a trusted source, like your CEO, to trick you into clicking a link, transferring money, or providing personal information.
  • Baiting: Baiting is where a cybercriminal offers something of value – like a gift – to lure someone into clicking a malicious link.
  • Watering hole attacks: In a watering hole attack, cybercriminals compromise your hotel website by injecting malware. This means that when guests use the website their devices could be infected too.
  • Pretexting: In this example, a cybercriminal could pose as an IT technician to gain access to a secure network.
  • Tailgating: A cybercriminal could follow a hotel guest or employee into a secure area of the hotel and gain access to sensitive information or systems.

To protect against these measures, it is necessary to conduct seminars with employees. Paying attention and knowing what to look for is the basis of protection.

#2 Create a Secure and Hidden Wi-Fi Network for Employees

Hotels are well-known for providing guests with Wi-Fi as a courtesy, aimed at enhancing their stay. Shortcomings in network security, however, could open doors for nefarious individuals to infiltrate guests’ personal devices or even the hotel’s own system. Such breaches have the potential to expose sensitive data, including personal details that identify individuals. Moreover, the nature of hotel Wi-Fi networks—often accessible to a myriad of devices—poses a significant threat.

For protection, it is wise to take additional security measures. For example, you can create multiple Wi-Fi networks to isolate the problem if it occurs. It is also wise to create a hidden network for employees. To do this you need to make a hidden SSID. You can read about what is SSID separately, for example, from VeePN. Not only awareness of what the SSID is, but also network management skills are the bare minimum for an administrator in the hospitality industry.

#3 Implementing Strong Password Policies

Cybercriminals often prey on the vulnerability of weak passwords. A robust password policy is crucial. It should mandate a mix of characters—letters, numbers, symbols. Also, it’s vital to enforce periodic updates to passwords. These measures can dramatically cut down the chances of unwelcome intrusions.

#4 Use Encryption

The easiest way to set up encryption is with a VPN. Most of us know that you can download VPN free for your smartphone or browser. However, there is much more than just a VPN extension. You can set up a VPN on your router, then all connected devices will receive data encryption.

#5 Effectively Managing Legacy Accounts

The high turnover rates within the hospitality sector pose an oft-overlooked risk, notably in the cybersecurity realm for hotels. Why does this matter? As employees part ways with their workplaces, the potential for sensitive information to walk out the door with them is very real. Furthermore, former staff might still have lingering access to the hotel’s technological infrastructure and confidential databases.

For any hotel, this scenario could rapidly escalate into full-blown security emergencies, including data leakage. It’s imperative, then, that protective measures are adopted with urgency whenever staff transitions take place. What might these involve? Standardizing a protocol that immediately revokes all access to internal systems upon an employee’s departure is a cornerstone strategy. Beyond that, investing in comprehensive training regimes designed to embed best practices and regularly scrutinizing system and data access could fortify a hotel’s cybersecurity bulwarks significantly.

Final Words

In today’s digitally intertwined hospitality sector, the risk of data breaches has escalated. It’s imperative to fortify hotels with top-tier cybersecurity measures, safeguarding guests’ personal information. This not only preserves confidentiality but also reinforces the overall guest experience. With the right defensive techniques and a deep understanding of potential cyber threats in hand, hoteliers are well-positioned to craft effective incident response strategies.

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