How to secure hospitality industry from interconnected cyber risks?

Generative AI
December 23, 2022

The hospitality industry is one of the top five targets for cyber crimes in today’s world because it relies heavily on technology to provide services to guests. Additionally, hotels rely on multiple third parties to operate and run seamlessly, thus structured in a complex and interconnected digital environment.  

About the hospitality industry

The Hospitality industry use computer systems to manage reservations, process payments, and store sensitive customer information, which makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks. Additionally, the interconnected nature of the hospitality industry means that a breach at one hotel could potentially compromise the systems of other hotels, further increasing the risk of cyber attacks. For example open wi-fi networks, electronic doors & alarms, HVAC systems, etc. are vulnerable to cyber abuse.

Technological advancements, such as the ability to control lights, air conditioning, and key card access remotely, have made it possible to automate many functions, enhancing the luxurious experience for guests. These advancements in computer technology have also made it more convenient for hotels to manage these functions remotely.

Challenges faced by the hospitality industry

Technological advancement like always brings challenges along with the comfort and automation that it brings. Hotels and restaurants dependent on automation facilities or online mode of operation are open to cyber attacks which can impact their bottom line and significantly hurt the brand reputation.

A ransomware attack may disable or take control of the hotel’s air-conditioning & lighting, thereby inconveniencing the guests or even put their safety at risk. IoT has brought about a transformation in the industry, but has become an easy target of cyber crimes. A recent example is one where a luxurious Austrian hotel’s computer-controlled key card system was taken over and 180 guests were locked out of their rooms until the ransom was paid.

Another pain point in this industry is the online booking system. Integrated POS systems are often not as secure as the modern payment terminals that encrypt data. There is a large volume of payment card transactions at restaurants, shops etc.  

Hotels are also tied up with multiple individual hotels and third parties to run and they are all tied into the same system. In such a situation even one outlet being compromised will give an entry point to hackers and they can enter the central system. Lack of proper training for the employees and complete dependency on an external cyber security company add to the woes of the hotel/hospitality industry.  

Additionally, a wave of cloud kitchens is increasingly emerging across countries post the pandemic. As the name suggests, cloud kitchens use cloud technology which brings it’s under cyber law regulations. They are responsible for cyber due diligence as well as ensure the food aggregators they are partnered with, adhere to the same.  

Role of cybersecurity in the hospitality industry

Cyber laws are trying to regulate this industry considering it brings everything that runs digitally or managed remotely, under its foray. As seen above, the hospitality industry extensively uses digital & remote operations to tie in various processes, partners and holds a lot of information including buying behaviour, customer preferences etc apart from huge volumes of financial transactions. IoT having enabled remote electronic door access, temperature control etc is all online as well.  

Securing these systems is of utmost importance to ensure confidentiality, maintain safety as well as to not be held at ransom!  

This apart, it’s hugely also about the cost the company will incur in case of data breaches or if held to ransom. The money lost could run into millions of dollars depending on the company's revenue and the size of the data breached. Not to mention the loss of trust and reputation damage that could cost the hotel chain to eventually shut down.

Alfahive approach to cybersecurity in hospitality industry

Alfahive has established a machine learning based cyber risk platform called RiskNest (TM) that is uniquely built to assess, quantify and recommend the reduction of cyber risks on an ongoing basis. With our in-depth technical know-how and subject matter expertise in the hospitality industry, we can accurately assess the risks and recommend the actions to reduce them.  

Alfahive understands that each business has unique processes, challenges and advantages. Our approach is to use the business process as key enablers to map critical parts of the cyber security assessment and automate them in a repeatable manner without manual intervention as much as possible.  

This is done using industry specific algorithms and ML technology that learns and become more intelligent with time. Thus, we are also able to prioritize the controls based on the impact and recommend a detailed action plan to reduce the cyber risks.

In conclusion, cybersecurity in the hospitality industry is of critical importance due to the reliance on technology and the interconnected nature of the industry. Technological advancements such as automation and remote control have enhanced the luxurious experience for guests, but also present new challenges in terms of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is crucial in the hospitality industry to maintain confidentiality, safety, and to avoid costly data breaches or ransom demands. It is important for hotels to implement robust and data-driven cybersecurity measures comprehensively to protect against these threats.