Ransomware: One of Hospitality's Biggest Threats in 2017

The December ransomware attack on an Austrian Hotel has left many travelers and hotel owners concerned about their safety. After the attack made headlines for locking guests out for their rooms, the hospitality industry felt the first shockwaves of the top cyber security threat for 2017. In this article, Cybereason will discuss how ransomware can affect the hospitality industry and what hotels and restaurants should consider to protect themselves from future cyber attacks.
Ransomware is malicious software that locks or encrypts devices so the users cannot access them until victims have paid a sum of money, usually in BitCoins, to a criminal organization or individuals. In the Austrian hotel attack, computers were apparently compromised and shut down which prevented guests from entering their rooms and the hotel from making key cards for new guests. Travelers may be annoyed, but for the hotel, ransomware can be a major business disruption. While hotels have embraced key cards as they can be quickly reprogrammed, it is another point where cyber criminals can infiltrate and disrupt an internal computer system.
Understanding Criminal Motives
Ransomware is an industry. The cyber threat has been used to target a variety of businesses from hospitals to retailers and now the hospitality industry. The origins of ransomware go back several years when the tactic was used to target individual computer users, but as criminals looked for better ways to make money, they started targeting businesses that can both afford higher ransom sums and potentially have insurance to cover losses.
Criminals understand their market very well and have created competitive monetizing methodologies. The attackers conduct sophisticated research, test their products, know their targets, and build efficient tools for the task. This is what makes ransomware one of the top cyber security threats for businesses and consumers this year.
Preparing and Responding
Ransomware is a threat because it blocks access through encryption. When it comes to defending against ransomware in the hospitality industry, businesses need to always be ready for a breach. Every business should have an action plan in place to prevent their company from being the next victim of ransomware or any other cyber security threat.
If a ransomware incident does occur it is important to act quickly by segmenting portions of the infected network and removing devices to try and prevent the problem from spreading. Companies should also alert all employees on the network that there is an active cyber threat to keep additional devices from being infected.  
One of the best practices for any company to employ are regular backups and a tested disaster recovery plan to help eliminate the power of this threat. In addition, companies should make sure employees are aware of internet threats and how they can affect the overall company network. Using anti-malware software is a necessary start, but it will not stop everything – especially rogue software downloaded by employees. Malware often hides in unlikely places such as pirated software, file attachments, web links, and suspicious emails. Spam filters are a great start, but unfortunately this line of defense will not catch every new threat. A great way to defend against cyber security threats is to install ransomware protection on any computer that will be connected to company files.

The growth of ransomware incidents and malicious software will continue to rise as businesses and consumers become more dependent on the internet for everyday needs. The hospitality industry, more than other verticals, needs to be prepared for potential threats as they can disrupt their customers like the attack in Austria. As cyber attacks continue to rise in 2017, it’s important that businesses take proactive steps to protect not only company data, but the overall integrity of the company network from hackers.
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