Is Your Hotel's WiFi Safe for Guests?

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Is Your Hotel's WiFi Safe for Guests?

By Dirk Morris - Founder & Chief Product Officer, Untangle - 02/08/2019

Security in the hospitality industry has been making headlines a lot lately. With recent data breaches at major hotel brands, like Marriott and, a few years ago, Hyatt and Hilton, you may be doubting whether your information is safe––and how safe it is to use WiFi networks.

While these data breaches are bringing hotel chains under fire, what many people don’t understand is just how complicated security can be for this industry behind the scenes and how much work goes into providing a secure and seamless experience from when a customer checks in until they check out. Hotel aren't just protecting your data in their systems, they are also protecting guest devices on their networks, payment information, and vendor information, all while their business systems must continue to operate effectively and securely.

Safe and Secure Guest WiFi

One of the key security issues that the hospitality industry faces currently is how to provide safe, fast WiFi to their guests, a perk that is now expected by customers whether they are attending meetings, working in a café or lounging by the pool. These businesses want to ensure that their guests not only have a secure connection, but also ensure it is fast enough to serve their business and entertainments needs during their visit. While this may seem relatively simple, it actually comes with a host of risks that must be mitigated along the way.

By offering WiFi to customers, businesses take the risk that a rogue or infected device could connect to the network and spread malware to all other devices connected. Businesses must also manage customers using bandwidth-intensive applications, like streaming movies or gaming, or creating potential liability issues by accessing illegal or inappropriate content while on the network. All these risks potentially impact other customers and threaten business compliance with various regulations. Hospitality businesses also need to protect their own network and back-of-the-house operations like point-of-sale systems or databases containing payment information required to run their businesses.

Savvy businesses utilize separate networks for guests and for staff operations in order to safeguard their own information. This allows businesses to easily enforce separate network rules for guests and staff. It also provides a level of containment should the business need to quarantine an identified threat.

In addition, organizations can deploy an “Acceptable Use Policy” (AUP) to ensure users and guests comply with the company’s internet usage rules. This helps protect both guests and the business itself from improper use of the network. Many businesses will also utilize firewall solutions that have reporting tools to track staff activity and enable logging of individual user activity to help businesses have full visibility into what websites, apps and data are being accessed.

No matter what, hospitality businesses should look to deploy specific networking solutions that meet their exact needs while providing the business and guests with secure and speedy internet access.  The hospitality industry isn’t all that different from other industries when it comes to their security needs. Every industry needs some sort of network security in place to protect their data, devices and users. As guest WiFi has become ubiquitous in the hospitality industry, it is crucial that businesses have the right solution in place to manage, control and protect the network.

 

About the author

Dirk Morris has over seven years of technical experience and proven leadership managing development teams to successful, on-time launches in the network security field. As Chief Architect at Akheron Technologies, Dirk invented the patent-pending High Bandwidth Transparent Vectoring used in the company’s proxy firewall engine. He has also held positions as lead engineer at VerticalNet and H.L.L.C. Consulting, developing Java-based distributed monitor and intrusion detection systems. Prior to that, Dirk worked on survivability simulations at CERT/CC (Computer Emergency Response Team), the renowned, federally-funded Center for Internet security operated by Carnegie Mellon University. Dirk earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University.