IT – Hotel Computer Security And Disaster Recovery Tips

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Hotel Computer Security And Disaster Recovery Tips

In the modern hospitality industry, where technology plays a crucial role in operations, ensuring the security of hotel computer systems is paramount. Additionally, having a robust disaster recovery plan is essential to minimize downtime and protect sensitive data. Here are some tips to enhance hotel computer security and disaster recovery:

Computer Security Tips:

  1. Firewall Protection:
    • Install and regularly update firewalls to safeguard against unauthorized access. This helps create a barrier between your internal network and external threats.
  2. Regular Software Updates:
    • Keep all software, including operating systems, antivirus programs, and applications, up to date. Software updates often include security patches that protect against known vulnerabilities.
  3. Secure Wi-Fi Networks:
    • Ensure that the hotel’s Wi-Fi network is password-protected and uses encryption. Regularly change Wi-Fi passwords to enhance security.
  4. Employee Training:
    • Conduct regular cybersecurity training sessions for hotel staff. Educate them on recognizing phishing attempts, using strong passwords, and following secure computer practices.
  5. Data Encryption:
    • Utilize encryption for sensitive data, both in transit and at rest. This adds an extra layer of security, especially when dealing with guest information and financial transactions.
  6. Access Control:
    • Implement strict access control measures. Limit access to sensitive systems and data to only those employees who require it for their roles.
  7. Regular Security Audits:
    • Conduct periodic security audits to identify vulnerabilities. This may involve hiring external cybersecurity experts to assess the hotel’s computer systems.

Disaster Recovery Tips:

  1. Data Backups:
    • Regularly back up critical data, including guest reservations, financial records, and other essential information. Store backups in a secure, off-site location.
  2. Cloud-Based Solutions:
    • Consider using cloud-based solutions for critical systems. This provides an additional layer of redundancy and allows for faster recovery in the event of a disaster.
  3. Emergency Response Plan:
    • Develop a comprehensive emergency response plan that outlines procedures for data recovery, system restoration, and communication during a crisis.
  4. Testing Procedures:
    • Regularly test disaster recovery procedures to ensure they are effective. Simulate different scenarios to identify any weaknesses in the plan.
  5. Collaboration with IT Experts:
    • Collaborate with IT professionals and specialists in disaster recovery planning. Their expertise can provide valuable insights and help tailor solutions to the hotel’s specific needs.
  6. Insurance Coverage:
    • Review and update insurance coverage to ensure it adequately addresses potential losses related to cybersecurity incidents or other disasters.

The recent advance in computer software technology in recent years has given the hotel industry another security concern. Illegal entry into the computer room of a hotel can create a direct threat to the organization’s financial stability and its customer database. Fires, natural disasters, and hardware theft can result in damaged or irretrievably lost data.

Hotels should regularly conduct an audit on risk assessment of all computer systems and software to uncover specific areas of vulnerability. This is an assessment of the risk associated with the loss of each and all systems as well as all data stored on those systems. This assessment should be repeated half yearly or annually or as new software is brought online and old systems are replaced.

Risk Assessment Of All Computer Systems And Software In Hotels For Specific Areas / Departments:

Accountability :

The structure and resources of the hospitality industry require that one person carry the responsibility for overall computer system security. In many properties this is either the controller or the director of information systems (MIS) or in smaller hotels it is done by the IT managers.

However, every user must be held accountable for protecting the information resources of the property and the corporation. Sharing system or file access passwords or providing other information that could allow unauthorized access to a property’s systems is equivalent to company sabotage or theft.

It becomes important that strict user access levels are deafened according to the designation of the staff, This will limit access to information and systems to those users who require such access to perform their assigned duties.

Audit ability :

It is the responsibility of the designated systems security officer of the property to maintain awareness of when users are accessing information, what they are accessing or modifying, and when and how unauthorized attempts to access a system are being made. They should always track the user logs on servers and PMS or POS software to see these details.

The use of unique passwords is one acceptable method of authorizing use and protecting computer data. When a property uses passwords, it should strongly encourage employees to avoid writing them down. Some hotels set a password change policy for their users to change their passwords every 30 days. Users who don’t change their passwords after 30 days have to get it reset through the proper channel.

The above practice will help protect the passwords of employees who have left or been transferred or terminated and their password and login being used by other employees. Some properties permanently delete the login and passwords of employees when they leave the organization.

To maintain an audit trail and monitor system usage, system administrators in conjunction with the security officer on the property should activate access, violation, and modification logs that track password use. Access logs provide an electronic record of each attempt to log on to a system. Violation logs record who attempted to violate system or file-level security, and modification logs record user information on all files that have been modified.

In some systems, it is possible to have such logs activate an alarm when data gathered in the log falls outside established parameters. Such notification allows the system administrator the opportunity to locate the source of the potential security risk.

System Integrity:

It is a fact that we have to admit that no security plan or system for computers is 100 percent foolproof. There is a local saying among hotel computer system managers that,” We do the best We can. even after that, if someone wants to get into a system, they will get in”.

Unfortunately, this is true. Since such access can happen from within a property or from the outside, it is important to take measures to prevent ”hacking” into a system on both fronts. It is the responsibility of the appointed systems security officer to perform due diligence as it relates to system integrity, keeping the system continuously operational without data loss or security incidents.

The level of security available on a particular system in most cases begins with the operating system. Always keep your computer OS up to date as the OS vendors regularly fix known security issues.

Computer Viruses:

Computer viruses are destructive computer programs that can ”infect” a computer and damage data files, system files, and applications. Viruses can replicate themselves and can be transmitted as hidden files or programs from one computer to another. Viruses are most often transmitted when users carry a USB from computer to computer, copying files to and from the USB without considering whether or not they might contain a computer virus. An infected USB may invisibly transmit the virus to each computer that reads the files. This in turn infects one computer after another.

As more computer virus infections are through USB it would be a good decision by the hotel management to block USB access on computers for all users.

The second and much more effective (and malicious) way viruses are spread is over the internet. Internet mail attachments are notorious for carrying computer viruses. These programs are attached to e-mail messages and then sent to numerous users. The unsuspecting user then opens the mail and carelessly infects the computer with a virus. 

The most effective way to prevent the spread of computer viruses is to use a good anti-virus program to protect computers against the threat of viruses. These programs work as virus shields, scanning files for known computer viruses as they are opened or run. If a virus is detected, it is immediately cleaned from the system. Additionally, these programs can be set up to periodically scan the entire computer for viruses. Virus protection programs are extremely effective when installed on a server and used in a local area network (LAN).

Internet Connectivity:

When computers have access to the Internet as well as corporate and local area networks, it is important to protect data from unauthorized distribution over the Internet. It is especially critical to control Internet access centrally in any property where computers are connected to the hotel LAN and the Internet via a modem.

Anytime there is a modem on a PC, there is the possibility for unauthorized transmission of data from the network, out of the hotel, via the modem. It is more secure to provide Internet access via the network so that a firewall can be put in place to protect the hotel’s data and systems. Firewalls are communications filters that allow only authorized access and data transmission to and from a network.

Access Restrictions:

The more people that have access to a computer, the greater the possibility of compromised security. Implementing certain access restrictions can help to maintain system integrity.

One type of restricted access involves the creation of different levels of authorization for access to different levels of information. Such a system limits the information available to employees to only those areas necessary for the performance of their jobs. Front desk staff, for example, would be limited to computer access relating to the check-in and check-out functions only.

Physical Access to Servers:

The server room or main computer room in a property should be secured in a separate area from other operations, protected by adequate locks and double-door entry. All movement of personnel into the area should be controlled, and access should be granted only to those who work with the network. A log should be maintained in computer operating areas detailing any stop pages and any resulting problems. Such records should be maintained and reviewed regularly by supervisory personnel.

Physical Protection of the Computer:

Computer security involves more than protecting against fraud or vandalism. The computer itself should be maintained and protected from numerous hazards that could temporarily or permanently incapacitate it.

Properties also should take measures to protect against power failures that may disrupt computer functions. One strategy is to route all computer equipment through an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) unit. 

Data Backup:

It is most important that all critical data on a hotel’s network be backed up each day. Additionally, critical report information should be printed at regular intervals in case of emergency or system outage. For instance, room occupancy and guest information should be printed regularly (for each shift) so that room status can be determined in the event of the system going down.

Physical backup on tape, high-capacity disk, or recordable CD/DVD should be performed daily and stored off-site in the event of fire or theft of system equipment or data. In some instances, corporate policies will govern backup procedures and the storage of backup media. Otherwise, each property should develop adequate procedures that meet the needs of that property.
By prioritizing computer security and disaster recovery, hotels can safeguard their operations, protect guest data, and maintain the trust of both guests and stakeholders. Regular updates, training, and collaboration with cybersecurity experts are key elements in building a resilient and secure hotel computing environment.
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