15 Expert Strategies for Hotel Data Breach Prevention

Bryan Michalis
Bryan Michalis
January 25, 2024
15 Expert Strategies for Hotel Data Breach Prevention

Every hotel business dreads those two words: data breach. That’s because a data breach is one of the most damaging things that could happen to a business. From hefty financial losses to a drastic reduction in guest trust, a hotel data breach could change the course of your business forever.

How can you protect your hotel from a security breach? And what strategies can you implement to ensure your guest and organizational data is as safe as possible? Below, we’ll discuss ways you may be putting your operation at risk, as well as strategies for protecting your organization against a hotel data security breach.

What Is a Hotel Data Breach?

A hotel data breach refers to a security incident in which unauthorized individuals or entities gain access to sensitive guest or organizational information stored by the hotel. These breaches can involve the unauthorized access, acquisition or disclosure of various types of information, such as:

     
  • Guest information: Names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and other personal details of your guests.
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  • Payment data: Credit card information and other financial details.
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  • Employee information: Staff contract details, social security numbers and other proprietary data.
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  • Operational data: Internal communications, access to systems and applications, and reservation logs.

How data breaches happen

Crafty cybercriminals deploy numerous strategies to target unassuming victims—from phony phishing emails designed to look like an official communication from a high-ranking member of staff (such as the CEO) to malware intentionally programmed to disrupt your servers.

Hotels are especially vulnerable to DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks. This is where cybercriminals aim to overwhelm a target’s online services, such as websites or servers, by flooding them with a high volume of traffic. A DDoS attack is often used as a diversion tactic, distracting security teams while attackers attempt to steal data.

The disastrous impact of a data breach on a business

If the idea of a data breach sends shivers down your spine, you’re right to feel that way! The average cost of a hospitality data breach is 3.4 million, according to a 2023 Trustwave Spider Labs report.

Unfortunately, your chances of being affected by a data and security breach are high: 31% of hospitality organizations have reported a data breach, and 89% of breached organizations have been affected more than once in a year.

Data breaches have multifaceted consequences, including financial losses, reputational damage, legal consequences, operational disruption, loss of customer trust, and long-term business impact.

Taking steps to thwart potential threats can impact your bottom line, too, as there’s a growing concern among consumers that their data is vastly unprotected. According to Skift, 75.1% of travelers said they are “very” or “somewhat” concerned about the privacy and security of their personal data provided to hotels. They are; however, willing to make trade-offs for companies taking data security seriously.

Being aware of vulnerabilities can help ensure you safeguard your data with the proper precautions. However, this requires hotels to evolve their compliance and safety measures alongside the cybercriminals who frequently adjust their methods for threats.

3 Mistakes Hotels Make That Make Them Vulnerable to a Data Security Breach

There are three key mistakes that hotels make when it comes to protecting their customer data:

     
  1. Insufficient security measures: Inadequate or outdated software makes you susceptible to various types of data breaches and attacks. This could include vulnerabilities in software, unpatched systems and insufficient network security.
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  3. Poor employee training and awareness: Forgetting to supplement network upgrades with human efforts can increase the likelihood of a break, including a lack of proper cybersecurity training, such as recognizing phishing attempts or handling sensitive information securely.
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  5. Using non-PCI-compliant processors: Partnering with third-party processors (reservation systems, payment processors, etc.,) that take data security as seriously as you do is crucial. If these third-party systems have vulnerabilities, they can create entry points for attackers to exploit and gain access to the hotel's data.

15 Expert Strategies to Protect Your Hotel Against Data Breaches

The good news is that you can protect your hotel against data breaches. There are numerous ways to ensure the security and integrity of your guest and organizational data. Here are 15 strategies you can implement quickly:

     
  1. Implement robust cybersecurity protocols: Develop, document, and enforce comprehensive cybersecurity policies that cover data protection, access controls and incident response.
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  3. Regularly update software: Keep all software, including operating systems and security applications, up to date to address vulnerabilities and enhance overall system security. Updates may include patches (or bug fixes) and new features.
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  5. Encrypt Wi-Fi networks: Utilize strong encryption protocols for Wi-Fi networks to prevent unauthorized access and potential data interception.
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  7. Train staff on data security best practices: Conduct regular training sessions to educate staff about cybersecurity best practices, recognizing phishing attempts, and safeguarding sensitive information.
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  9. Maintain PCI DSS compliance: Implement secure payment processing solutions that comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements.

       PCI DSS compliance is crucial to avoid data breaches and fraud. Find out more about the standard’s latest iteration, PCI DSS v4.0 in our eBook: PCI v4.0: How Hoteliers Can Prepare for the New PCI Standards
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  11. Encrypt sensitive guest information: Encrypt sensitive guest information, both in transit and at rest, to protect it from unauthorized access or interception. Encryption solutions include end-to-end encryption (E2EE), SSL/TLS protocols for websites or file-level encryption for example.
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  13. Conduct regular security audits: Conduct periodic security audits to identify and address vulnerabilities in systems and processes.
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  15. Employ firewalls and intrusion detection systems: Deploy firewalls and intrusion detection systems to monitor and block malicious activities on the network.
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  17. Limit access to sensitive data on a need-to-know basis: Implement a Role-Based Access Control solution that restricts employee access to sensitive data based on their job duties minimizing the risk of insider threats.
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  19. Establish strong password policies: Enforce strong password policies for all employees, including a process for regularly updating passwords to enhance access controls.
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  21. Monitor and analyze network traffic for anomalies: Analyze network traffic for anomalies and suspicious activities. To detect potential threats, you’ll also need to monitor your traffic patterns during regular activity to establish a baseline.
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  23. Back up data regularly and store it securely: Implement regular data backup procedures and store backups securely to ensure data recovery in the event of a breach or system failure. There are numerous ways to backup your data, including creating a regular schedule for backups (daily, weekly or monthly), automated backup systems, incremental backups (only backing up data that has changed since the last backup), or versioning (maintain multiple versions of files in backups).
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  25. Develop an incident response plan: Write, and regularly update, an incident response plan outlining the steps to take in the event of a data breach to minimize damage and facilitate recovery.
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  27. Get rid of non-compliant authorization forms: Paper and PDF credit card authorization forms are not secure and expose your organization to fraud and chargebacks. Switch to a PCI-compliant digital authorization form for better protection (like Canary Digital Authorizations).
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  29. Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and trends: Enlist the help of cybersecurity professionals and stay up-to-date on the latest threats to proactively adapt security measures against emerging risks.
Infographic: 15 Expert Strategies to Protect Your Hotel Against Data Breaches

Become a Champion of Hotel Data Security

There are many strategies you can use to defend against hotel data breaches, but the most important element is awareness. Make data protection a priority in your organization using training and education. Then, start enhancing security across all departments in stages.

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