Thank You for Staying With Us: How Was the Bed, Room Service … Cybersecurity?


Hotels provide much-needed places to rest for weary travelers, room service for hungry guests, and a wide range of on-site amenities. They are such lovely places. However, they are prime targets for hackers, with thousands of customers’ payment card information and personal data stored in hotel property management systems. To help hotels and other hospitality companies implement stronger security measures in and around their property management systems, the U.S. government is asking companies to showcase their cybersecurity products and solutions. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) Nov. 24  invited organizations to provide technical expertise and products to “support and demonstrate security platforms” for the hospitality sector. According to NIST and the NCCoE, hospitality sector’s property management systems interface with a wide range of hotel information technology system components, including point-of-sale systems, Wi-Fi networks, and door locks. Adding to the complexity, property management systems are often connected to third party business partners’ services, such as on-site restaurants, online travel agents, and other customer relationship applications.

This complex web of hotel connections provides a “broad surface for attack by malicious actors,” NIST and the NCCoE said. Improving the security of these systems will help hotels protect their businesses from data breaches, fraudulent transactions, and other cybersecurity threats, the agencies said.

The project will result in the creation of a cybersecurity practice guide, providing descriptions of practical steps and solutions necessary to effectively security property management systems, according to NIST and the NCCoE. 

The cybersecurity dangers targeting hotels aren’t novel or theoretical threats. Earlier this year, Trump International Hotels Management LLC reported a data breach as a result of the compromised systems of a third-party vendor providing booking services. Another hotelier, Wyndham Worldwide Corp., faced three data breaches in 2008 and 2009, which allegedly compromised more than 600,000 payment cards. The breaches lead to a Federal Trade Commission data security enforcement action that was affirmed by a federal appeals court and the hotelier ultimately settled.

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