Save Your Online Reputation, Secure Your Guest Information

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Joshua Meehan
Joshua Meehan
May 7, 2014
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Online Reviews can make or break a hotel’s reputation these days. Poor customer service and dirty rooms are some of the more common negative reviews but can be subjective and often don’t tell the whole story. The effects of these reviews can easily be addressed and the other  positive reviews will help mitigate any negative effects the bad ones may have caused. But what happens when a guest’s identity gets stolen and the leak can be traced back to your hotel? Those reviews are going to have a much more damaging effect. When identity thieves steal this information they don’t stop at just one guest, they will take as many as they can get. This can quickly drop your hotels review scores all over the internet causing you to no longer appear on searches and driving guests to your competitors. So what can you do to keep this from happening?

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1. Network Security

Internet Security goes beyond just your computer and software installed on it. External firewalls can provide a crucial level of security that is often overlooked. Most modern routers will include some level of firewall security, but there is a big difference between consumer grade equipment you can purchase from an electronics store and commercial or business grade equipment. These services are typically more expensive (some may require subscription services), but they offer a much more comprehensive level of security and support.

Regardless of the hardware you choose, it is important to keep your hotel’s computer on a wired network that is separate from anything your guests will have access too. If these computers are connected to a Wi-Fi network at all, they are at greater risk if someone is trying to gain access to your network. Keeping the guest’s network separate from the operations one can also help to keep the day to day business of the hotel running smoothly. Sharing the bandwidth between the guests and desk can be problematic when you have a lot of guests using video streaming services like Netflix. Newer Property Management Systems are constantly connected to the internet, and a slowed connection can drastically reduce the hotel’s productivity.

2. Upgrade your Operating Systems

Recently Microsoft has discontinued support for the aging Windows XP operating system and this could mean big problems for the nearly 400 million machines still running the system. Chances are some of your computers are on that list.  As the internet continues to grow and evolve, older systems like Windows XP are left vulnerable to attacks. Depending on the size of your property, Upgrading your computers to a newer operating system may be the most expensive option, but its also the one of the most important.

Why is this so crucial? Most hotels are using Extranets or Central Reservation Systems to manage most of their bookings, this combined with the information stored in your Property Management System contains all of your guests billing and personal information.  If these machines aren’t properly secured, hackers can do irreparable damage to your guests finances and your properties reputation. In recent years, hackers exploited similar flaws and stole information from over 600,000 guests around the world totaling in excess of $10 Million in fraudulent charges.

3. Login Credentials

Almost everything online requires a username and password these days and trying to keep track of that information can be difficult. People will often reuse password for multiple services. If one of those services becomes compromised the damage could spread too many other systems as well. Letting your employees assign their own passwords is a great way for them to remember them, but chances are they reuse ones from their personal lives. Chances are those may be among the most common password used today. This is why it’s important to not use simple user names as well. Using a combination of first and last names is an easy way to create unique and easy to remember usernames, but they are also among the least secure. If the potential threat is coming from a guest, they can easily get an employee’s name and can try and guess the rest. Assigning employee numbers internally can be a useful solution for creating more secure log in credentials.

With how competitive the hotel industry is, protecting your guest’s personal information is as important as your property’s reputation. Making sure your network security is up to par is a great way to do both and can help to set you apart from your competition. Taking the steps to ensure your guests person information is an amenity that not a lot of hotels are advertising. And as services like Privacy Atlas become more popular, guests will soon be able to include network security in their search criteria when choosing a hotel.

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