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Author Topic: Why Hackers "Loves" Hotels?!  (Read 1213 times)

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Why Hackers "Loves" Hotels?!
« on: 12. July 2010., 08:10:38 »

Here’s something that the struggling hotel sector prefers not to spotlight: It is a favorite target of hackers.

A study released this year by SpiderLabs, a part of the data-security consulting company Trustwave, found that 38 percent of the credit card hacking cases last year involved the hotel industry. The sector was well ahead of the financial services industry (19 percent), retailing (14.2 percent) and restaurants and bars (13 percent).

Why hotels? Well, to paraphrase the bank robber Willie Sutton, hackers hit hotels because that is where the richest vein of personal credit card data is. At hotels with inadequate data security, “the greatest amount of credit card information can be obtained using the most simplified methods,” said Anthony C. Roman, a private security investigator with extensive experience in the hotel industry.

“It doesn’t require brilliance on the part of the hacker,” Roman said. “Most of the chronic security breaches in the hotel industry are the result of a failure to equip, or to properly store or transmit, this kind of data, and that starts with the point-of-sale credit card swiping systems.”

The sophistication of such systems can vary widely from one hotel to the next, even within the same corporate chain, making it an easy route for hackers.

The Trustwave report said that “organizations large and small were found to be moving forward with plans to implement new technology, while leaving basic security threats overlooked.”

Roman works with hotels to improve security technology, but he said that as the industry hit tough economic times and hotel owners cut spending, security upgrades lagged.

Proper technology security requires the purchase “not only of software and hardware, firewalls and encryption programs,” but the training of staff and the constant monitoring of transactions and data access, he said.

“We’re seeing thousands and thousands of credit cards being hacked out of hotel systems. So I would say the industry is not doing incredibly well on this,” Roman said.

The full extent of credit card fraud by those who breach hotel systems is unknown. But anecdotally, hacking incidents occur with disturbing regularity.

Last month, Destination Hotels and Resorts, a chain of luxury properties in the United States, notified customers that credit cards “may have been compromised.”

ABC News reported that Destination had been victimized by “an intense database attack that lasted over three months,” and quoted law enforcement authorities saying that losses, which totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, averaged $2,000 to $3,000 on each of the estimated 700 credit card numbers stolen.

Also last month, Wyndham Hotels sent customers a statement saying that a “sophisticated hacker had penetrated our computer system” at as many as 31 hotels from Nov. 7 to Jan. 23. Wyndham said it was improving its security technology.

It often takes months for these attacks to be discovered by hotels — and by customers who may be on the road frequently and not monitoring card activity reports carefully.

My wife and I had separate credit cards that we used for business travel, but each account was compromised in the past eight months shortly after hotel stays. In both cases, hackers made multiple unauthorized purchases — all for small amounts and as many as 10 in one day — from merchants such as the Apple iTunes Store.

Fraud experts say that hackers often steal personal data and make multiple small charges to validate a card, probe its vulnerability and test the vigilance of a cardholder before making bigger charges.

Meanwhile, credit card companies are pressuring merchants, including hotels, to adopt uniform security standards.


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Why Hackers "Loves" Hotels?!
« on: 12. July 2010., 08:10:38 »


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