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The inhospitable intruder who gate-crashers the party

As the hospitality industry dives deep into the digital world of things, in an era dominated by personalisation, customization has discovered a new ally; the omnipresent smartphone.


These phones, acting as remote controls, now allow hotel guests to digitally unlock their hotel room door, change the temperature of one’s room, and operate the window blinds and to carry out a plethora of other actions that provide comfort in the temporary home away from home.


As we wander around every day with a powerful computer at our fingertips, this digital connection provides data which is gathered by phone manufacturers and apps. Such data is the new business currency and often an organization’s greatest asset besides its people.


Using the valuable insight it delivers on customers’ opinions, preferences, and needs and more, the interaction between hotel and buyer becomes more personal and intimate. Consequently, by personalizing communications and offers, hospitality businesses see improved results.


However, in today’s hyper-connected world, where convenience and connectivity is king, ensuring the safety of the digital touchpoints within the hotel experience is a challenge. People are becoming more concerned about security and privacy, because cybercriminals are casting their nets wide and hotels of all sizes are in the mix. No hotel is too big or small to be a target. In fact, smaller independent properties may be even more vulnerable to attack, and less able to bounce back from the loss of reputation and damages paid.


As soon as a hotel begins storing data about individuals, it accepts responsibility for the safety of that data. Because of the amount of data, such as reservations, personal identification and payment details, being collected with a click and stored digitally, the stakes have never been higher.


Remember the Marriott data breach in 2014 that compromised the data of more than 300 million customers worldwide of hotel chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts when hackers sneaked into Marriott’s system and scooted away with a treasure trove of guest information: names, addresses, emails, passport numbers, credit card numbers, etc. or the Ransomware attack on hotel and casino conglomerate MGM Resorts International, in September 2023,which took 10 minutes to execute and resulted in the company losing around $100m?


It behoves hotels and those in the online space to have a roadmap to navigate the murky waters of cyber threats. Measures combining technology, training, and policy to create a resilient cyber- security defense, such as the following will help avoid the risk of causing detrimental and lasting damage to their security, profitability, and reputation:-


  1. Fortify your digital perimeter: Just as a fortress needs strong walls to repel invaders, your digital infrastructure requires robust defenses, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and encryption protocols.
  2. Train Staff: They are the gatekeepers of the hotel’s domain and must be able to detect for example, phishing mail, etc.
  3. Encrypt everything: This is the hotel’s invisible barrier.
  4. Have a Plan B in place: Always backup, backup and backup and learn from your experiences and improve your security and privacy continuously.
  5. Update often: Outdated systems are easily penetrated by hackers.
  6. Stay informed: In an ever-evolving cyber-world, what is secure today is vulnerable tomorrow.
  7. Seek AI assistance: AI-driven security systems work 24/7 and are adept at identifying and keeping hackers at bay.
  8. Implement MFA; Multi-Factor Authentication, i.e., requiring users to provide two or more verification features add extra security.
  9. Create a RRP: Even with the best precautions, breaches can happen. Having a cyber -security incident response plan in place ensures you can act swiftly to minimize damages.
  10. Seek expertise: Partnering with cyber-security firms can provide you with the expertise and tools to shore up your defenses. 


Ilzaf Keefahs is a freelance writer who enjoys focusing on hospitality related matters that he is passionate about, and likes to share his views with hoteliers and customers alike. He delves into the heart of hospitality to figure out both customer service and consumer trends that impact the industry


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