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HTNG Unites Hotel Groups to Reduce PCI Vulnerability

Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG), the membership association that unites the world’s hospitality companies and technology innovators to solve industry challenges, has announced the availability of the HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality. The Framework is a collaborative effort of more than a dozen HTNG members representing the world’s major hotel groups that will improve payment card security across the industry, and greatly reduce the cost and complexity for hotels of all sizes of satisfying Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI-DSS).
The hotel industry is widely reported to be one of the most frequent targets of credit card thieves. The structure of the hotel business contributes to its vulnerability, as it typically requires that customer payment card information be available for use over a period of weeks or months. Additionally, the hotel booking ecosystem requires frequent exchange of payment card data among unrelated businesses, such as OTAs, brands and franchisees. Compounding these risks is the fact that many hotels are independently owned small businesses that lack the technical expertise and budget required to implement payment card security measures that can keep pace with the increasing sophistication of criminal organizations attempting to steal this information. 
The HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality was unveiled at the Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) North American conference in Atlanta. The Framework achieves its core objective by defining a viable, cost-effective approach to credit card security by ensuring that no hotel system would ever need to process, store, or transmit payment card data. Achieving this objective removes the most difficult and expensive aspects of PCI compliance for hotels. While some larger hotel companies may still choose to retain payment card data in certain systems, the Framework allows this to become a conscious choice, rather than a necessary risk of doing business.
The HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality also creates significant new business opportunities for technology vendors and service providers who already operate within PCI scope, such as payment gateways, merchant acquirers and payment terminal manufacturers. “The objective is to let hotels focus on hospitality, and let the payment services industry deal with payment card security,” said Douglas Rice, HTNG’s Chief Executive Officer.
Due to the critical, industry-wide need to confront the escalating threat of payment card information theft, HTNG is making this Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality document available to all interested parties throughout the hospitality industry and its suppliers regardless of HTNG membership. “This is a major milestone that has the support of the leading companies in our industry,” said Rice. “But it will only be fully effective in protecting hotel customers if every hotel company, every independent hotel, every application vendor, every distributor, and every payment service provider uses it. By making it widely available and freely usable, we will accelerate the adoption of the solution that can soon make payment card information breaches and the high cost of PCI compliance yesterday’s problem for hoteliers.”
Numerous leading PCI-qualified security assessors (QSAs) in North America and Europe have reviewed the HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality over the past 18 months at the request of HTNG and its participating hotel security executives. Their evaluations to date support the position of participating hotels that the Framework incorporates known best practices, and — when properly and fully implemented — can remove hotel systems from the scope of onerous PCI validation requirements. Today, those requirements typically apply to property management systems (PMS), point of sale systems (POS), central reservations systems (CRS), booking websites, e-mail systems, fax servers and other applications commonly used by hotels. Both HTNG and the QSAs remind hotels, however, that even though their systems may be taken out of scope for PCI compliance by implementing the Framework, other PCI requirements still apply, as they would for any merchant that accepts payment cards.
The HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality builds upon, rather than replaces, extensive payment card security solutions that several major hotel groups, as well as their payment service providers, have already implemented. In particular, it supports all known variations of “tokenization,” a widely used approach that replaces sensitive payment card data with a token, or marker. Hotels can use tokens to process payments, but they expose no sensitive customer credit card information to potential thieves. 
The Framework also incorporates emerging payment card industry approaches for card capture (e.g. swipe devices) based on point-to-point encryption (P2PE). In addition, the Framework solves challenges that even the largest hotel groups have found difficult or impossible to address through tokenization or encryption approaches, including:
  • Accepting third-party reservations containing payment card information, without exposing at least one hotel system (and often many) to sensitive card data
  • Allowing customers to provide payment card data during voice reservation transactions, without exposing the agent, call center system, or call recording systems to PCI scope
  • Allowing unrelated business entities (e.g. brands, franchisees, OTAs) to send reservations with payment card data, without exposing either party’s systems to sensitive card data, and without requiring the parties to use the same security approach, tokenization provider, or payment gateway
  • Accepting payment card data through hotel web sites without bringing any hotel systems into the PCI scope
  • Accepting information submitted by customers through e-mail, fax, or document upload (e.g. meeting planner spreadsheet), without exposing hotel systems to PCI scope
  • Supporting research of credit card transactions by hotel staff, such as for dispute investigation, without bringing hotel systems or networks into PCI scope.
The HTNG Secure Payments Framework for Hospitality also specifies the need for new payment products and services to meet certain unique needs of the hotel industry. Several participating hotel companies have already begun discussions with their payment service providers and systems suppliers to develop products and services that are compatible with the Framework, many of which are expected to be announced in the coming months. 

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