As we edge out of lockdown, the police-led Cyber Resilience Centre for the South West (SWCRC) is urging businesses in the travel and tourism sector to get protected against cybercrime.
Regional-based businesses are gearing up for a record-breaking year with hundreds of thousands of bookings being made through online systems for hotel reservations, car rentals, air travel, restaurants, and cafes, etc. And without the necessary protection, organisations leave themselves wide open for cybercriminals to exploit personal data and attack networks.
SWCRC is a police-led, not-for-profit organisation which exists solely to protect businesses and charities across the South West region. Its Director, Mark Moore,said: “Over £10.4 billion was spent on tourism in the South West in 2019 and with overseas summer holidays looking increasingly unlikely this year, the sector is expecting an incredible season.
“And yet, with so many people making their bookings online and entrusting their personal information and payment details to private holiday-letting providers, holiday parks, guest houses and hotels, it is crucial these SMEs have cybersecurity measures in place to not only protect themselves but also their customers’ details.
“Add to that the fact that some of the world’s leaders, delegates, and media will descend on Cornwall in June for the G7 summit, and all of a sudden the South West becomes a valuable target for the cyber criminals whom we’ve seen becoming more and more active during lockdown” concluded Mark.
Such attacks can leave a devasting impact with far-reaching effect. Businesses can suffer from a long list of serious implications, including destruction, alteration, or loss of important files, unauthorised access to sensitive data, loss of billable hours, network access and website access, as well as potential closure, to name a few.
South West Tourism Alliance Chair, Alistair Handyside MBE, recently co-hosted a cybersecurity webinar with the centre at which he explained: “Cybercrime is something that is becoming ever more prevalent. Over the last year we have heard from more and more businesses which have been victims of cybercrime because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We would urge every travel and tourism firm to listen to the guidance being given around things you can do to make your businesses safer and to protect your livelihoods. The Cyber Resilience for the South West is a dedicated resource to try and fight this ever-growing threat. It’s a genuine cross-peninsular collaboration to help protect businesses in the South West.”
The SWCRC offers tourism providers a few points they should consider when it comes to their online protections. These include the following:
Have you vetted both the technology and the *contracts* between you and your online hospitality partners?
Do you know what types of information you are collecting/sharing on your customers?
Do you have the appropriate levels of consent for the collection and sharing of information?
Have you reviewed and understood your obligations regarding the various privacy laws regulating your customer relationships?
For further guidance, resources and quick wins to help improve your business's ability to defend against cyber attacks, visit www.swcrc.co.uk/news.