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Hotels told to do more to protect customers' data

07 November 2012 by
Hotels told to do more to protect customers' data

The hospitality industry is the number one target for computer hackers, but hotels could be doing more to prevent it, according to speakers at the Institute of Hospitality's Risk Management seminar at World Travel Market on Tuesday.

Paul Moxness, vice-president safety and security, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, reckoned that this year, 60% of data breaches were through the hospitality industry.

"Hotels are not doing a good job," agreed Dr Alex Paraskevas, senior lecturer in risk assessment at Oxford Brookes University.

He cited the case earlier this year of Wyndham Worldwide, which faced a formal complaint from the US Federal Trade Commission after its customers' credit card details were stolen three times in two years, costing credit card companies £6.8b.

Philip James, a partner at law firm Pitmans, warned: "Hotels have a duty to keep data secure according to the Data Protection Act."

The rise of social media is making it easier for fraudsters to discover guests' details, but hotels are particularly vulnerable because they store large amounts of sensitive customer details, including loyalty programme information.

James said that while no computer system could be 100% secure, companies could mitigate risk cost-effectively by deleting data that was no longer relevant or encrypting data. They could also prevent crime by updating software and involving HR and IT departments in assessing and auditing risks, enforcing CRB checks and making penetration tests on systems.

Moxness warned that the danger of fraud was not just from outside the business. "This is a labour-intensive industry with lots of touchpoints," he said.

He described cases of organised gangs pressurising hotel workers to skim credit cards or steal data, while there were also instances of criminals posing as IT technicians to attach key-loggers on to computers in hotel business centres.

Advice on how to tackle fraud can be gained through bodies such as the UK Cards Association and the National Fraud Authority.

By Rosalind Mullen

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