Cybersecurity: Defending Against Technology’s Dark Side
By Jeff Swords
Beyond maintaining the physical safety of their guests, today it is imperative for hospitality industry companies to protect their customers’ personal and financial information. Security breaches also affect a company’s reputation and even its ability to function. The following are practical guidelines to help hospitality industry companies identify and mitigate the ever-growing risks associated with cyberattacks.
Security is a philosophy, not a product. At the root of an effective security strategy is your organization’s culture. That includes more than concealing specific types of data from the outside world and from competitors; it means understanding potential threats to that information. My company holds envisioning sessions at no charge to help companies formulate comprehensive security strategies.
When determining where you want to take your services and your business in the next two to five years, we outline security areas that are prominent today–and tomorrow. It is critical to examine the threats that exist in the market and in the Dark Net world. We look at security frameworks a business has in place now, and what you will need in the future.
The first step is to identify security parameters for critical data that gives you a competitive advantage — client lists, credit card information, personal and family information, length of stay and more. High guest ratings are the goal of every hotel, and we show how security affects guest experience. This goes directly to a company’s governance, its philosophy about who is involved in security systems; oftentimes CEOs get involved in this fundamental part of the vision.
A typical security assessment covers governance, wireless security policies, insurance response, change controller, and approval processes, among other concerns. We may find that a client has nine of the ten most critical elements in place, but our specialized knowledge base may reveal the one area that leaves them exposed. Knowing and eliminating this weakness can avert a business disaster.
Identifying security gaps is particularly critical in today’s climate of mergers and acquisitions. A professional security analysis can help guide hotel executives in deciding when it is not practical to merge business models as they are currently configured, when creating a secure new model is the way to go, and the paths to take moving forward.
As experts in emerging technologies in all area of cybersecurity, we have credit industry specialists. They understand the importance, as well as the vulnerabilities, of the PCI (private credit card information) and PII (private individual information) that hospitality companies handle daily. Our Capabilities CISO (chief information security officer) came to United Data Technologies following years on staff at VISA. There he was involved in drafting the federal government’s initial PCI regulatory documents, which are now in their fourth iteration to keep pace with the field’s fluidity.
The question for top brands is when, not if, their data will be hacked. Compliance with government regulations that protect data is a starting place, but fines and laws will never deter those who want to steal data or hijack facilities systems for monetary gain. That is why external firms, including UDT, are engaged in helping the biggest players in the hospitality industry address and deal with threats in both the business and guest experience environments.
A positive guest experience is every hospitality company’s goal. Hotels now offer a wide range of wireless operations, including access to maps that help guests navigate the property to take advantage of a wide range of amenities. These same online maps can direct hackers to the location of critical mechanical rooms and infrastructure control systems, because guest credit card information isn’t the only target of the Dark Side.
Security is all about knowing what’s out there. Our deep knowledge of the ever-proliferating hacker underworlds and what they are trying to do can be an incalculable benefit to our clients. Hospitality employees, even those in security operations, must focus on supporting the company’s day-to-day business initiatives; few have the time to scour the Dark Side for the next peril. Our certified ethical hackers are constantly looking for threats and exposures, bringing these to our clients attention, and deploying our infinite response teams whenever and wherever they are needed.
Building customer trust enhances brand value. That is one of many reasons we are dedicated to helping businesses identify and fill cybersecurity gaps every day. When hospitality companies of all sizes decide to merge, a seamless transition is essential. That means making decisions from the top down that are closely attuned to every aspect of the customer experience. In a world where cybersecurity breaches have the power wreck both budgets and reputations, the wise leave nothing to chance.
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