Going to HITEC 2021? What You Should Know About Travel and Event Cyber Security Risks

Jeff Venza
By Jeff Venza, Chairman and CEO, Venza

As anyone in the hospitality industry is undoubtedly aware, it is finally that time of year again. The Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC) is just around the corner, marking the long-awaited return of in-person events and tradeshows. This year, HITEC will take place in Dallas, Texas, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center from September 27-30th.

HITEC, better known as the world’s largest hospitality technology conference, brings together the brightest minds and hottest technology from around the world into one venue for a memorable week of education, networking, and future-facing innovation. Year after year, hospitality professionals and technology leaders set off for a new destination, eager to connect with fellow attendees and exhibitors while benefiting from unparalleled access to industry-shaping resources.

Of course, as exciting as a good getaway is, it’s important to remember that events and traveling can also make us more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Hospitality events, especially those centered around new, innovative technology, are increasingly influenced by digital technology while offering attendees and exhibitors enhanced opportunities for virtual engagement and convenience.

Over the course of the conference, attendees and exhibitors will leverage apps, wearable technology, RFID platforms, WIFI networks, scanning devices, and more. With countless digital touchpoints utilized amongst hyper-connected attendees and an influx of potentially sensitive information and credentials demands a focused, risk-conscious approach to cybersecurity and data protection.

To mitigate any potential cyber risks while traveling and while at HITEC, being proactive is essential. With this in mind, here are five tips to help keep you and your colleagues cyber safe while at this year’s HITEC.

First, Identify the Risks

The list of potential threats is long, but common security concerns include:

• Public Computers

• Public Wireless Networks

• Skimmer Devices

• Location Sharing

• Phishing Emails

• Remote Connectivity

• Identity Theft

In fact, reports reveal that in 2020, almost a third of cyber breaches incorporated social engineering techniques, of which 90% were related to phishing schemes (emails, “scareware,” and more). Moreover, hackers performed 7.5 million external attacks on cloud accounts in Q2 2020, the number of the attempted breaches grew by 250% compared to 2019. In some cases, hackers may even pose as an attendee (often a high level executive of a company) to ask colleagues back at the office to “wire money” or “purchase gift cards” on their behalf. With this in mind, anyone traveling to HITEC should speak to their colleagues and reprective teams prior to leaving to ensure there are processes put in place to mitigate this risk (code words, verbal confirmation of any transfers over the phone, etc.). In the case of HITEC, a major phishing threat could be the use of a “HITEC Attendee List” email to phish or spread ransomware to individuals attending the event.

Password Protection

Never underestimate the power of a good password. Before leaving, we recommend you utilize strong passwords (avoid predictable, numerical sequences and phrases) for user accounts and applications and auto-lock and two-factor authentication where applicable. Finally, make sure you are especially mindful of any suspicious emails or communications they receive over the course of the trade show.

Create a Backup

Prior to leaving for Dallas, ensure all your software systems are updated to the latest, most secure versions. More importantly, take the time to create an encrypted, cloud backup of all important files and systems that contain important data to ensure easy access in the case of a lost, stolen, or compromised device. While traveling and on venue grounds, avoid accessing sensitive data while on public networks.

Keep it Private

To avoid the risks associated with public Wi-Fi networks, HITEC attendees can choose to create a private Wi-Fi hotspot via their smartphone. It is always best to use a secure virtual private network (VPN) that will encrypt any data. If public networks must be used, seek out those which are clearly marked, and password protected. Moreover, attendees should disable Bluetooth when not utilizing it and limit remote access to their devices.

Be Mindful of Social Activity

Social media is an integral and engaging part of the experience at a large-scale digital event such as HITEC. However, attendees should remain cognizant of the real-time information they share via popular social media platforms. When sharing photos or screenshots from the event, implement a “look before you post” policy and double-check to make sure no sensitive information is visible within the image. Moreover, if prompted to download a third-party app, double-check that it is from official show coordinators, vendors or exhibitors.

As the famous adage goes, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” and, in the realm of event cybersecurity, you can’t protect sensitive data from hacking practices without first identifying and addressing all possible vulnerabilities. With these easy steps informing the security measures for the event, HITEC attendees can rest assured that their data and information remains protected as they enjoy a memorable week of education and opportunities for professional connection that will set the stage for the year ahead.

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