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The Guest may Check Out, but His Data Stays.
Friday, 7th March 2014
Source : Roland Wildberg ~ Exclusive from ITB 2014
How can the hotel industry defend itself against data attacks and cyber crime? The revelations of the NSA whistleblower Michael Snowden have brought many players in the travel industry to mind the importance of protecting sensitive data.

Uwe Bernd Santhu from the auditing company KPMG spends his time working with the development and testing of data security system. Therefore he knows the weak points also from practice digital security system.

The vulnerability is man, not technology

At the beginning, Santhu pointed to the limitations of digital security systems: "The problem is not the technology, but the human being." He continued: "Who leaves confidential information in his hotel room, shall not be surprised, that a unauthorized person may force his way to it."

As a concrete example, he recalled one of his typical workdays. The KPMG consultant pointed out how often he gets into situations in which his data is jeopardised. His movements can be tracked by using a Smartphone. When he travels, his passenger data are exchanged and the hotel bookings are monitored. Alleged Wi-Fi spying software in hotel rooms can be placed easily on computers, tablets and Smartphones. And if he buys something, his credit card can be read without authorization.

Data security as a challenge for the hotel industry

The hotel industry is particularly affected by the debate on data protection. Just hotel rooms of all locations are preferred targets for intelligence and surveillance activities, following the general suspicion of hotels as a location for confidential meetings.

Now large corporations forgo meetings in large hotels but take small pensions. That can be a financial problem for hotels with the time. Besides many hotel do lack awareness of data confidentiality. As Santhu reported in turn from his own experiences as a tourist in hotels. Often it is only a small step to gain access to sensitive documents from the hotel server through the use of Wi-Fi.

What can you do?

Given the questions uniquely named by the speakers, the question arises after the necessary measures. Here, Santhu demanded new perspectives: "We have tried so far to protect networks against attackers from the outside. For example, through firewalls.

This is still important. But the fact is: there are no networks, which can not be cracked from the outside. That does not mean that one should not work on firewalls. But the paradigm shift must be, that you recognize in time attackers that already are on the gates." By the way technology itself can provide approaches for a solution: There is software that examines the data flows in a network for suspicious data streams. Interestingly, there are mainly American solutions on the market. The question is whether it's going to trust these American software companies.

To set about the topic, any responsible manager should ask himself 4 short questions, one after another: A. Do you know what are your most important data? If you know this you are one step further at least. B. Where are these data? If you know that, then you know where special protection is necessary at all. C. Are these data safe? If you're not sure (and this is usually the case) measures must be taken. This leads to D. What can I do?

This conderations by an established expert pointed out that questions of cyber espionage and data security is not only a theme for James Bond fans or vulnerable people. It affects everybody. No one knows what ways sensitive data in the next few years will undergo. Who not already takes care of the security of its data, may regret this bitterly in a few years.

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Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry has always fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing work-live-balance at its best.

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