To combat hotel security risks, data is critical

WASHINGTON—Knowledge is power. It’s an adage we all learn at a young age, and in an era in which we have knowledge more readily at our fingertips than ever before, it’s never been more applicable. For hoteliers, knowledge brings with it many things, including insight into the guest, enabling properties to create a more personalized experience; insight into conditions in their market, enabling them to optimize their revenue strategies; and insight into security threats, enabling hotels to mitigate risk. Knowledge is critical for hotel operations to run smoothly, and in this day and age, that knowledge is all in the data.

Modern-day hotels face a host of security risks and threats. “There are a number of in-person risks posing a threat to the hospitality industry,” said Jon Gonzalez, Babel Street’s VP of commercial, state, local and education government, law enforcement global sales. “The most notable are conferences/conventions, concerts, POS terminals and digital key cards, as many hotels are moving toward this form of mobile app check-in. At highly populated events like conferences and concerts, we’ve seen security breaches and mass shootings take place. In addition, most hotels have multiple check-ins, customer service and concierge desks with numerous POS terminals that are not always manned by a hotel employee. Criminals can skim the data process through each POS terminal and potentially gain access to a much larger database as well.”

And those are just the in-person risks. “There are even greater amounts of digital security risks,” Gonzalez said. “Phishing attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. Due to the large number of employees and a higher turnover rate in the hotel industry, attackers are more likely to target hotels. Customers are providing an increasing amount of personal information in order to benefit from newer and more in-depth loyalty programs. Because of this, hotels are an easy target for criminals who are looking to steal hotel guests’ identities and credit card data. A hotel can be used as an avenue for those looking to target a wide array of systems, such as sprinkler systems and security cameras. Threats can also occur via text and in-app messaging to hotel valets, WiFi networks, ransomware, voice assistant devices and chatbots.”

How can hotels combat these attacks? Data.

“Having the ability to collect large volumes of data on a single pane of glass is paramount to assessing and mitigating risks in the hotel security space,” Gonzalez said. “When users are able to easily track documents of interest (i.e., threats) quickly, it provides near-real-time insight in the ever-evolving data landscape.”

For its part, Babel Street offers Babel X, a multilingual, geo-enabled, text-analytics, social media and web-monitoring platform “designed to meet the needs of customers by fully leveraging publicly available information in this era of overwhelming quantities of geographically diverse, multilingual data,” Gonzalez said. It has access to millions of data sources in more than 200 languages. “By delivering this wealth of information in a single pane of glass, Babel Street helps organizations coordinate research across teams and identify patterns and risks earlier, while also reducing the time and number of tools needed to create actionable insights,” he added.

Looking toward the future, the ecosystem will only get more complicated. “As perpetrators learn to use data in new and different ways, hotels must be aware of new data sources and how people are utilizing these sources,” Gonzalez said, adding that it’s a priority for his company. “As data providers refine their policies on privacy and threatening/concerning posts shared on their platforms, it is important for hotel security to tap into alternative sources in the open, deep and dark web where this information is still present. For example, persistently searching message boards and blogs will allow security personnel to gain insight on their brand and/or event. Additionally, searching dark web repositories will expose exploited information or threats that reference their brand or event.”

While many hotel companies view certain types of information as proprietary, Gonzalez said that when it comes to security risks, this shouldn’t be their frame of mind. “In an effort to decrease the chance of security issues, hotels should focus on information sharing. For example, Babel X allows the hospitality industry to filter through an overwhelming amount of data to identify threats to a specific hotel or event. It’s imperative these threats are communicated to hotels in surrounding areas as well as throughout the industry to increase situational awareness and improve defense measures,” he said. “Additionally, hotels should participate in more industry roundtables as well as trade shows and conferences.” HB

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