National Tourism Week (22-31 May) is taking place this week and what better time to celebrate a diverse and exciting sector, as the tourism industry starts to re-open after lockdown. Yet it comes with a strong warning from the West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre (WMCRC) which is advising businesses to stay safe this summer due to the rise in cyber crime.
The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021 reports that 39% of business in the last 12 months have reported cyber security breaches or attacks. And with English tourism making up 80% of the UK’s visitor economy, it unfortunately looks like there’s plenty of scope for cyber criminals to make an impact.
With the launch of Coventry as the UK City of Culture happening in a few weeks’ time, Alison Hurst, Director for the WMCRC advises tourist operators that improving their cyber resilience is imperative to keeping their business safe. “Organisations working in tourism, leisure and hospitality are increasingly becoming targets of cybercriminals and face a unique set of challenges compared to other sectors.
“Hotels, for example, provide a huge scope of opportunity for attacks, as vast amounts of data is constantly being collected. Whether it’s highly sensitive and valuable information in relation to their customers or whether it’s managing large supply chains and financial transactions, any vulnerability in software systems is what criminals are seeking to exploit.”
And it’s not just hotels, millions of people will be making their bookings online and entrusting their personal information and payment details to private holiday-letting providers, holiday parks, guest houses and many more tourist hotspots. It is therefore crucial these SMEs have cybersecurity measures in place to not only protect themselves but also their customers’ details.
Debbie O'Shea, Group Chief Information Office for National Express and WMCRC Board Member said: "As a transport organisation, National Express is fully supportive of the WMCRC and it's timely warning during National Tourism Week. Similar to most organisations we have, in particular, observed an increase in phishing and ransomware attacks both directly and through the partners we operate with.
"No business or organisation is immune so making sure some simple practices are in place could help; for example, by implementing multi factor authentication (MFA) attackers will find it more difficult to access cloud based services, such as Microsoft Office 365 or G-Suite, which many SMEs may use. Many of these cloud based services offer MFA at no additional cost and can be deployed in a very short timescale.
"For more support I would definitely recommend contacting the WMCRC which offers both practical advice plus a range services that could help you to be better prepared in tackling these increasing risks."
The WMCRC recommends that businesses follow these cyber resilience good practice tips, with more to be found on the WMCRC website.
· Backing up your data
· Use strong passwords to protect your data
· Secure your wifi network
· Invest in cyber security training sessions for you and your staff
· Keep auditing your security practices
Established in 2020, The Cyber Resilience Centre for the West Midlands (WMCRC) offers a range a membership options depending on what level of support businesses in Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire need.
Businesses in the West Midlands can sign up for a free Core Membership online and receive a welcome pack full of practical resources and tools that will help you identify your risks and vulnerabilities and the steps you can take to increase your levels of protection. Through your membership, you will also get regular updates on new threats, designed to help you stay safer.