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How Cyber Threats Put the Hospitality Industry at Risk

Nicole Van Duyn
May 13, 2020

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We live in a world where modern technology has given us the opportunity to find anything we need with the click of a button. Whether you’re planning a trip to an exotic location, making a reservation for dinner with friends, or finding a parking spot, odds are you’re booking and paying for these things through the internet or on a mobile app. Thanks to the magic of the inter-webs, we have the ability to make educated decisions, do extensive research and plan the most amazing vacations all from the comfort of our own homes. With these advancements, identity theft has become the fastest growing crime in America today according to the U.S Federal Trades Commission.

The hospitality industry has followed trend on going paperless and utilizing cloud-based point of sale systems and storage software giving consumers the conveniences they have become accustomed to.  This new technology can help streamline operations, attract new customers and reduce costs, but many employers do not realize the extent of their cyber risk vulnerabilities or how they can avoid a breach to protect consumer’s data. 

Dr. Godwin-Charles Ogbeide, Director of the White Lodging School of Hospitality & Tourism Management College of Business at Purdue University Northwest notes, “Hackers keep coming up ways to breach security.  If business operations leave the window open, they will dive in.” He continued, “Cyber-attacks shouldn’t negatively impact the hospitality industry overall, but it does warrant vigilance from both business operations and consumers. We want to make sure that we don’t instill fear in our consumers when it comes to cyber security but advise them on how to protect themselves.” Dr. Ogbeide advised, “I recommend that consumers utilize one credit card for all online transactions.  If there is a breach you can cancel that card immediately without a devastating impact.” 

According to a 2017 study by the Ponemon Institute, the average annual cost of cyber-attacks for small and medium sized businesses was over $2.2 million. Most small to medium sized businesses don’t have millions in reserve, causing nearly 60 percent of those victimized to close permanently within six months of the attack. Many of these businesses put off making the necessary improvements to their cyber security protocols until it was too late because they feared the costs would be exorbitant. It is a common misconception that all businesses’ insurance policies will cover a loss due to a cyber-attack. The truth is that every insurance policy is uniquely tailored to each individual business so unless you’ve elected to have a cyber policy, your company may be left vulnerable.  

At General Insurance Services, our goal is to have a deep understanding of each business we represent.  We take our time examining every risk profile thoroughly which allows us to work hand in hand with owners to build out a strategic plan.  Improving a company’s risk profile strengthens their appeal to insurance companies, improves safety measures, enhances company culture, and can even impact employee education and retention programs. Cyber security is no different; the key is to take threats seriously and implement a proactive approach. Having the proper tools to evaluate cyber risk and educate employees is something GIS takes pride in offering to our clients.  

Here are 10 ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks: 

    1.Train employees in cyber security principles. 

  1. Install, use and regularly update antivirus andantispyware software on every computer used in your business. 
  1. Use a firewall for your internet connection.
  2. Download and install software updates for youroperating systems and applications as they become available. 
  1. Make backup copies of important business data andinformation.
  2. Control physical access to your computers andnetwork components.
  3. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you offer free Wi-Fi to your guests make sure it is secured as well or you could be putting them at risk of a cyber attack
  4. Require individual user accounts for each employee.
  5. Limit employee access to data and information, andlimit authority to install software.
  6. Regularly change passwordsusing a phrase or sentence, not just one word.

This article was published in the Spring 2020 issue of the General Insurance Services Risk & Business Magazine. Access the full publication here 

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