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People today expect to be connected always and everywhere; sometimes it’s hard to believe that there was a world before smartphones and Wi-Fi. In the time since Wi-Fi became ubiquitous in hotels, apartments, and public spaces, it has fueled the evolution of connectivity in a lot of ways. Just like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most basic needs start at the bottom, and you can’t get to the next level without a strong foundation. 

By now, everyone is aware that hotel giant Marriott International announced on Friday a massive data breach that goes back more than four years and may have affected up to 500 million customers worldwide. 

After two years of preparation, the FlyZoo Hotel — a futuristic property that uses interactive technologies to do everything from greet guests to deliver room service — is ready for business. 

Mobile technology is fast becoming central to the entire travel experience. Consumers are increasingly using their smartphones to research trips, book accommodation, check in at the airport, and access their hotel room. But one of the next big roles mobile has to play in the travel process is mobile payment. The idea of an entirely cashless society might still seem some way off, but mobile payment is gaining popularity. As it becomes more widely used, its fast and frictionless nature will bring benefits before, during and after a trip. 

Digital marketing, also known as internet marketing, plays a significant role to boost hotel website traffic and online bookings. Recently, many big announcements were made in the digital industry, for example when Facebook introduced a new video format for marketers, or when Google announced a board core algorithm. If you are a new hotelier and want to stay ahead in the industry, then you should know what’s going on in the hotel digital marketing industry. 
 



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End of Year Review: Data Breaches

12/17/2015

The numbers are in... this year (2015) the total number of data breaches reached 732, surpassing last year's total of 726 for the same time period, according to the San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center.  It is reporting more than 176 million records were exposed this year so far.  When you think that we still have two weeks to go before 2016, the trend does not augur well.

Some breaches have taken place in the hospitality and online travel space...the ones we hear about anyway.

One that may have flown under the radar is the breach at Sabre; the company acknowledged in early August that hackers had breached its GDS. Bloomberg, citing anonymous federal investigators, reported that the breach was part of the same set of Chinese-linked attacks that struck insurance carrier Anthem in February and the U.S. government's Office of Personnel Management in June.  The breach, Sabre said, involved servers managed by a third party. In its only public statement on the incident, the company also said it was not aware that any sensitive data had been compromised but was continuing to investigate.

In November, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide warned that malware designed to help cyber thieves steal credit and debit card data was found on point-of-sale cash registers at some of the company's hotels in North America. The disclosure makes Starwood just the latest in a recent string of hotel chains to acknowledge credit card breach investigations, and came just days after the company announced its acquisition by Marriott International.

Several other major hotel brands experienced a malware-driven credit card data breach. In October 2015, The Trump Hotel Collection confirmed a report about a possible card breach at the luxury hotel chain. (For more information on this case, please click here. And since misery loves company: both Mandarin Oriental and Hilton made the headlines as well.

Hilton is worth a deeper dive. A security flaw in Hilton's website allowed an attacker to access any Hilton HHonors account simply by knowing or guessing the account number. In this case, the vulnerability was particularly dangerous because Hilton didn't require logged-in users to re-enter their current passwords before choosing new ones. At that point, an attacker could do anything a legitimate account holder could do, including changing the account password, viewing past and upcoming reservations, accessing the account holder's personal information, and redeeming HHonors points for travel, hotel reservations or cash.  Granted, this is not like a credit card number breach, where the numbers can be used for purchases; rather, it's the account number and login that are being sold, which can then be translated into goods via online purchases. This created a lucrative opportunity for hackers, as they could now sell account access with greater appeal.

Whatever one takes away from this recap, one thing stood out: 2015 cemented the transition from stealing just card data to gaining access to credentials.  At some point we will see that the end game of any hack is to gain the ability to “steal things” digitally, and often the “thing” is the ability to become someone else, whether to gain benefits by cloning an identity or to become someone via their credentials – someone who can modify payroll, someone who can access a financial account and move funds, or someone who can convert data into merchandise that is sellable on the black market (think HiltonHonors breach). 

And, since POS systems seem quite often to be the easy way in, and simultaneously third parties are opening doors (think Target and Sabre), the position PCI DSS 3.1 takes on shared responsibility just drives home the attention one should give to protecting all points of entry including those you don't actually manage but can be the way in for those with malintent.

Te praesta capacem ad provocationem!

About The Author
Marion Roger
VP Business Development
Hospitality E Resources


Marion Roger, vice president of Hospitality E Resources (HER Consulting), is a specialist in the hospitality supply chain landscape who is currently leading an industry initiative to support guest data security and has developed a hotel-focused training curriculum on PII protection. With a speciality focus on electronic reservation systems, payment technology protection and data security, Marion is a regular on the speaker circuit and contributor to Hospitality Upgrade on these key topics.

 
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