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Hospitality data security: Threats and solutions

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The hospitality sector is a goldmine for cybercriminals looking to exploit sensitive data. With hotels, restaurants, and recreational centers increasingly migrating to digital systems, their information has never been more vulnerable. But how can we counteract these growing threats? We explore the common security issues faced by hospitality businesses below, and the practical solutions for each.  

Malware attacks on POS systems

Hospitality establishments rely on point of sale (POS) systems to process transactions, using them to store vast amounts of sensitive payment card information. This therefore makes them a prime target for cybercriminals, who often use malware to spread their breach across multiple locations in a business’s network. Such attacks can remain undetected for extended periods, allowing them to siphon off the personal and financial data of customers unnoticed.

Solution: Implementing anti-malware software and intrusion prevention systems can safeguard POS systems against malicious attacks. It’s also crucial to regularly update POS software, as this helps patch known vulnerabilities and enhance their overall security posture. Moreover, segmenting POS networks from other critical systems can help contain potential breaches and limit the spread of malware, minimizing the lateral impact of any successful cyber intrusion.

Fragmented ownership structures

Hospitality businesses often have complex ownership structures, involving multiple entities such as franchisors, management companies, and the individual owners themselves. This typically leads to a fragmented approach to data management, where sensitive information is stored across diverse computer systems. This fragmentation, however, can lead to an increased risk in data breaches, as each entity would likely have different security measures and vulnerabilities.

Solution: Addressing these challenges will involve implementing a centralized data management system with robust security protocols (i.e., strict password policies, multifactor authentication, etc.). By streamlining data protection across ownership entities, businesses can ensure consistent cybersecurity measures are in place to protect sensitive data. Regular security audits may also help identify any potential issues within interconnected systems, allowing you to mitigate any risks before they escalate into greater problems.

Staff training and turnover challenges

With its seasonal and transient workforce, the hospitality sector often struggles with maintaining consistently well-trained staff. Its high turnover rates mean that employees may not stay in their roles long enough to receive the comprehensive training they need in data security best practices. This can therefore lead to an increased risk of insider threats or social engineering attacks, as cybercriminals take advantage of these gaps in training.

Solution: Comprehensive training and ongoing support are a necessity to keep staff members updated on emerging threats and best practices. Regardless of turnover rate, having a high-quality security awareness training program at the ready can quickly equip your workers with the basic skills to identify and respond to potential cyberthreats. Additionally, setting access controls based on job roles and responsibilities can significantly limit staff access to sensitive data and systems.

Regulatory compliance and data protection laws

Regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) impose strict requirements on businesses handling customer data, including those in the hospitality sector. Noncompliance with these regulations makes hospitality companies liable for fines, legal actions, and reputational damage.

Solution: Consider implementing advanced security measures, such as end-to-end encryption, to enhance data security and improve compliance. Regular assessments of data systems and processes can also pinpoint and rectify any compliance gaps. On top of this, it’s worth evaluating vendors and third-party service providers to ensure they also comply with relevant data protection laws. Include clear security requirements, measures, and compliance obligations when establishing contracts with these entities.

Insider threats and data misuse

Insider threats refer to employees accessing or selling customer data for personal gain, compromising guest privacy and the integrity of the business. Since hospitality companies collect vast amounts of customer data, they typically make attractive targets for insider attacks looking to exploit sensitive information. These details can be extracted from various touchpoints, such as a company’s website, a POS system, or a booking app.

Solution: To keep prying eyes at bay, businesses must implement strict access controls and monitoring mechanisms to prevent unauthorized access to customer data. Ensure personnel are only given access to the systems and information they need, limiting their reach across the network and reducing the risk of human error or malicious intent. It helps to foster a zero trust approach to cybersecurity in this case, where internal actors are treated with just as much suspicion as those outside of the organization.

Don’t wait for a data breach to start improving your security posture. Our team at predictiveIT can help you craft the ideal cybersecurity plan for your hospitality business. Stay one step ahead of cybercrime with the latest tools, services, and practices. Contact us today.