Cybersecurity in Travel and Tourism: Recently, tourism and travel companies have increasingly come under the crosshairs of hackers and cybercriminals who seek to exploit data security vulnerabilities. Data breaches have become commonplace in the travel and tourism industry these days.
In one case, the British Airways suffered a major cyber security breach when they hacked systems and managed to steal personal information and related financial data with over 380,000 cards. Hackers are believed to have breached the security codes associated with card payments using a cybersecurity flaw during payment authorization.
Global revenue from cybersecurity in the travel industry was $1.4 billion in 2021. The travel and tourism industry is increasingly digitized and includes new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud.
The travel industry holds extremely valuable and sensitive data about each traveler. If these data points are not well protected, customers are at significant risk of having their data stolen. Several major companies in the sector have made negative headlines due to poor cyber security. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities as part of a cybersecurity strategy, so a consistent approach is critical to effective risk management. To counter cyber threats, a company’s cybersecurity strategy must include contingency planning, designing immediate actions, post-breach response, and understanding the company’s current cyber risks.
Situation of cybersecurity prevailing in the travel and tourism
Looking at past cybersecurity issues and data breaches, it’s understandable that travel companies rarely take cybersecurity seriously until the bitter moment of truth hits them. Recently, however, there has been a shift in perspective.
But why are hackers targeting travel businesses? Hospitality groups, travel companies, airlines and car rental agencies have large amounts of customer data that can be very useful to cybercriminals in the long run. It tries to identify weak points and holes in the systems of travel agencies. And since most travel companies rely on online platforms and booking portals for business expansion, private data is vulnerable to breaches in networks with low security protocols and established rules.
Cybersecurity’s impact in the travel and tourism market
The travel and tourism industry is one of the most vulnerable to cyber attacks. As attacks become more common and sophisticated, the risk and impact of cyber ignorance escalates.
The various layers of the travel and tourism value chain process vast amounts of personal data and involve many individuals prone to human error interacting with millions of customers in cyberspace. Therefore, given the increasing sophistication of attacks, it will not be enough to simply thoroughly examine cybersecurity strategies after a cyber attack or focus on compliance obligations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an increase in cyber attacks and organizations have had to respond quickly to significant operational and financial challenges. Dependence on online communication and payment systems has accelerated due to the pandemic, leading to increased demand for digitization. This has prompted various companies to streamline operations, shift business models to greater digitization and increase the threat of cyber attacks.
Companies with poor risk management can expose their business to many threats that could significantly threaten the future viability of the organization. A strong cybersecurity strategy is critical to effective risk management. This is noteworthy because the survey also showed that respondents from the tourism industry believed that risk management was the most important of the corporate governance factors. An ineffective strategy can lead to criminals hacking and exploiting sensitive data, putting the business, employees and consumers at risk.
Cybersecurity tips for Travel companies
It is therefore high time that travel companies take cyber security seriously due to the nature of the data they hold. While a few simple steps can be taken in the beginning, a full security strategy needs to be developed to completely eliminate the chances of data breaches internally or through third party servers. Here are some tips that can help companies strengthen their cybersecurity systems:
1. Must provide monitoring of incoming and outgoing communications for data-disposal malware.
2. A secure CRM system with user permissions must be implemented to reduce the likelihood of data misuse.
3. Continuous use of insecure websites on corporate servers should be blocked.
4. There must be control over accessibility to backend data servers and systems.
5. The use of updated anti-virus software and anti-malware products is a prerequisite.
6. Strong passwords must be used to protect data.
7. Employees must be prevented or prohibited from opening an email attachment from unknown sources.
8. Companies must implement data tokenization and encryption measures to protect sensitive information.
Using these simple strategies, even a small or medium-sized business can improve its cybersecurity readiness. And once basic measures are in place, it is always better to conduct a cyber security audit and bring an expert on board to make systems completely immune to cyber attacks.
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Contributed by Ankit Raj Sharma
Edited by Imtiaz Ullah