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As somebody who’s helped to grow a company from 13 people to nearly a thousand, I know very well the excitement that comes with having a mindset focused entirely on growth. Every newly acquired customer, every new office and every milestone means the gap between you and your nearest competitor is that much bigger and that much harder to overtake.

As the travel industry begins to rally, technology companies are taking steps to help their customers get back to business. Strategies run the gamut from complimentary webinars and virtual learning events to special promotions and discounts, all designed to enable hotels and other hospitality venues to reopen confidently and economically amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Room Service and the New Normal - Food always has been, and always will be, a major part of the travel experience. But in a post-pandemic world, change is inevitable. Crowded restaurants and menus which have been handled many times may well (even temporarily) be avoided by wary travelers.

Over the past few years, there has been much media hype around the concept of a voice-controlled hotel room. It’s not hard to see why: voice assistant devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home achieved remarkable penetration in the consumer market in just a few years. Statista reports that about 157 million smart speakers were installed in U.S. households as of December 2019, an astonishing 1.22 devices per household. I haven’t found hard numbers on penetration in hotels, but based on the companies in the market and what I know of their size and success, it’s still very low, probably still under 1% of US hotel rooms. Is that about to change? Should it?

As we examine and develop new strategies for the changes that we can expect to see in the hospitality industry post-crisis, we are also starting to envision the world beyond the pandemic and to the new normal of radically shifted travel consumer expectations and preferences. The probability of guest technology expectations worldwide significantly changing becomes high as guests prefer a more touchless and fully mobile-enabled hospitality experience post-COVID-19. The future of hospitality has always been mobile–but COVID-19 will accelerate this trend from a nice-to-have to a must-have for hoteliers.



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End of Year Review: Data Breaches

12/17/2015
by Marion Roger

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
President
HRH Services LLC


Marion Roger is a specialist in the hospitality supply chain landscape who has led an industry initiative to support guest data security and has developed a hotel-focused training curriculum on PII protection. With a specialty 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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