Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

December 01 2015

The Hotel Industry Has A Big Cyber Security Problem

David McMillin

What do Hilton, Starwood, Mandarin Oriental and Trump Hotels have in common? They have all acknowledged that payment systems at some of their properties have been infected with malware in 2015, putting some guests’ credit card data and confidential information at risk. As hackers intensify their efforts to steal financial information, this year may be a preview of more troubles ahead for the hotel industry. In a recent article from The Financial Times, Tom Kellermann, chief cyber security officer at global IT security firm Trend Micro, highlighted that hotels are hot targets for online thieves.

“The reality is the [hotel] sector as a whole is dealing with a cyber crime wave,” Kellermann told The Times. “Customers should be very concerned because, in general, the industry has insufficiently invested in cyber security.”

Data breaches have dominated headlines over the past two years as organizations ranging from Home Depot to Target to the IRS have discovered that hackers outsmarted their security. As major retailers make adjustments to strengthen their systems, it seems that hackers will be shifting their attention toward tens of thousands of unsuspecting hotel guests. Kellermann added that he believes Marriott is the only major hotelier that has taken necessary steps to mitigate the risks of cyber crime. He even added that Marriott should evaluate Starwood’s existing payment systems as it works to finalize its $12.2 billion acquisition of Starwood’s portfolio of brands.

“They need to conduct an assessment of the entity that they are going to acquire,” Kellermann said. “What malware is already living in Starwood? Is the target already diseased?”

SEE ALSO: The Serious Cyber Threat That Could Hurt Hotels

Conventions Face A Big Challenge, Too

Hackers aren’t just going after hotel properties. Earlier this year, at the PCMA Education Conference, Michael Robinson, CCE, Senior Cyber Threat Analyst & Professor, Stevenson University, issued a serious warning for meeting professionals

“Hacking and stealing of data at conferences has been professionalized,” Robinson said. “Your attendees are targets.”

From credit card numbers to email addresses to stored passwords, there is a mountain of valuable private information stored in registration systems and transmitted on open Wi-Fi networks at conventions. As meeting professionals welcome their attendees and members to hotels and convention centers around the globe, it’s crucial to take extra steps to protect attendee data. If you’re looking for help, PCMA just worked with Robinson to develop a new Cyber Security Toolkit. Click here to make sure your next conference is covered.

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