Enhancing Cybersecurity in Hospitality: How AI-based SIEM Transforms Threat Detection and Response

Digital transformation has impacted every sector, including those steeped in tradition. The hospitality industry, with its rich history dating back centuries, serves as a vibrant confluence of diverse cultures and a hub for various sectors like food and beverage, air travel, tourism, hotels, and short-term rentals. This digital evolution has been instrumental in bridging the gaps between these service domains, collectively elevating the customer experience to new heights.
However, this very transformation also makes the hospitality industry particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. As hospitality service providers strive to deliver hyper-personalised experiences to both new and existing customers, a vast amount of data is collected and processed to support targeted marketing campaigns and tailored recommendations. For example, have you experienced receiving a highly specific advertisement on social media shortly after searching for flights to a specific destination?
This scenario barely scratches the surface. Customer personal information is ultimately dispersed throughout the industry’s ecosystem, and a single data breach can have major consequences, destroying a brand’s reputation and leading to substantial financial penalties to rectify the breach. The fallout from a cybersecurity incident can be profound, which is why resilient organisations must adopt proactive and sophisticated cybersecurity strategies to keep pace with the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. According to a 2023 report from Trustwave, approximately 31% of hospitality businesses have experienced a data breach at some point, with the average financial impact of such breaches estimated at around US$3.4 million.
In this blog, we will explore the different types of threat patterns actors deploy and how an organisation with a proactive security posture can leverage AI to stay resilient and prevent these attacks.
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The imminent cyber threats in hospitality

The hospitality industry, which spans hotels, airlines, restaurants, and various service providers, is an increasingly attractive target for cybercriminals. This attractiveness stems from a mix of factors that make the industry uniquely vulnerable:
  1. High Volume of Transactions: Daily, the industry handles millions of bookings and payments, each representing a potential point of attack for cybercriminals. The vast number of transactions increases the risk of security breaches.
  2. Digital Touchpoints: From online reservations to mobile check-ins, the shift towards digital services introduces multiple points of vulnerability. Each digital interaction presents an opportunity for cybercriminals to exploit security weaknesses.
  3. Rich Personal Data: Unlike many other industries, hospitality businesses collect extensive personal and financial information from their customers. This data, ranging from travel plans to payment details, is highly valuable to hackers for financial fraud or identity theft.
  4. Complex Supply Chains: The interconnected nature of the hospitality industry, involving numerous third-party vendors and partners, adds layers of complexity to its cybersecurity challenges. A breach in any part of this network can have widespread repercussions.
  5. Global Operations and Varied Security Standards: Operating across different countries means navigating a mosaic of cybersecurity laws and standards. This global footprint can lead to inconsistencies in security practices, making international operations more susceptible to cyberattacks.
Specific examples of cybersecurity threats in the hospitality industry include:
Booking system breaches
In a sophisticated attack, cybercriminals may use phishing techniques to gain access credentials from hotel staff or exploit outdated software vulnerabilities within the booking system itself. For instance, a breach might begin with an innocent email to a hotel employee. Once clicked, malware is installed that provides a backdoor to the reservation system. A single phishing attack can expose data from millions of guests and customers, including credit card information, which can be sold to the dark web or leveraged for ransom. This threat pattern took place in September 2023 as hackers targeted MGM Resorts in Las Vegas, USA. Hackers used fraudulent phone calls to employees and help desks to “phish” for login credentials. Once obtained, the hackers then used these credentials to access the network and deploy their ransomware, which ended up impacting the operations of more than three hotels and shutting down their casinos.
Hotel Wi-Fi Security

Hotel Wi-Fi networks are particularly vulnerable to various cyber threats, including but not limited to:

  • Man-in-the-Middle (MiTM) Attacks: Attackers intercept communication between guests’ devices and the network, stealing or altering data in transit.
  • Rogue Hotspots: Cybercriminals create fake Wi-Fi hotspots to mimic the hotel’s network, tricking guests into connecting to them and subsequently harvesting their data.
  • Malware Distribution: Malware can be distributed via compromised networks, leading to data theft or further cyber-attacks on guests’ devices.
  • Weak Passwords and Exploited Vulnerabilities: Weak or default passwords, along with unpatched network vulnerabilities, can easily be exploited by attackers to gain unauthorized access to the network.
IoT Device Vulnerabilities
IoT devices in hotels, such as smart locks, thermostats, and lighting systems, improve guest experience but also introduce new security vulnerabilities. These devices often lack robust security features, making them easy targets for hackers. Once compromised, they can serve as entry points to the hotel’s wider network.
IoT device vulnerabilities often stem from inadequate security protocols, such as weak default passwords, unencrypted communications, or lack of regular software updates. Many IoT devices in the hospitality sector are deployed with convenience in mind, potentially overlooking robust security features. Attackers can exploit these vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to the hotel’s network, from where they can launch further attacks, steal sensitive information, or even control physical aspects of the hotel’s environment.
Moreover, the interconnected nature of IoT devices means that compromising one device can potentially allow attackers to move laterally across the network, accessing a broader range of sensitive data or systems. For example, gaining initial access through a vulnerable smart thermostat could lead to attacks on more critical systems, such as payment processing platforms or personal data storage.
Insider Threats and Human Error
Human error, such as falling for phishing scams or mismanaging access credentials, is a common cause of data breaches. For example, a hotel employee could potentially have mistakenly downloaded a ransomware virus onto the hotel’s network, believing they were updating reservation software. Cybercriminals can access and encrypt critical operational data and demand a ransom to unlock it.
POS System Attacks
The hospitality industry’s payment systems (i.e., Point of Sale (POS) systems) process countless transactions daily in the hospitality industry, making them prime targets for cybercriminals looking to steal credit card information. Attackers often install malware on POS systems to skim credit card data during transactions. Hyatt Hotels was the target of two cyberattacks within two years. The first in 2015 affected 250 hotels in about 50 countries, where malware was discovered on payment processing systems designed to collect payment card data from transactions at Hyatt-managed locations. Then, in 2017, Hyatt reported another breach of its payment systems, affecting guests at 41 of its properties in 11 countries.
DDoS Attacks
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks flood the hotel’s network with excessive traffic, disrupting operations and potentially leading to significant revenue loss. Hotels depend on their online presence for bookings and operations. A DDoS attack can take down a hotel’s website, making it impossible for guests to make reservations.
The above examples illustrate the sophisticated nature of cyber threats facing the hospitality industry. Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity can help organisations to prevent cyber-attacks before they happen. Using AI-based next-gen SIEM (Security Information & Event Management) solutions can better safeguard organisations and offer predictive analysis of threat patterns to help determine the best response.
Download our Free Guide to Next-Gen SIEMs to learn more about how AI-based security can transform your cybersecurity strategy.
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There’s no such thing as too big to fail in cybersecurity

One may think that having sufficient resources will naturally translate to having a stronger security posture. But this is not the case. Even the largest hospitality brands face risks from threat actors – especially when they have amassed a substantial database of customer information.
These incidents not only compromise sensitive guest information but also shake the foundational trust upon which the industry is built. From data breaches exposing millions of guests’ personal details to malware attacks targeting payment systems, the repercussions of these cyber incidents are far-reaching.
Some prominent cases in addition to the examples shared previously include:
Marriott International Data Breach (2018): Marriott International experienced one of the most significant data breaches in the hospitality sector when hackers accessed the reservation system of its Starwood brand. This breach, discovered in 2018, exposed the personal information of up to 339 million guests and a fine of £18.4 million. Compromised information included names, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, and travel information. Marriott later confirmed that the breach began in 2014, affecting customers who made reservations at Starwood properties.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation (2015 and 2017): Hyatt Hotels was the target of two cyberattacks within two years. The first in 2015 was a widespread malware attack that affected 250 hotels in about 50 countries. Malware was discovered on payment processing systems designed to collect payment card data from transactions at Hyatt-managed locations. In 2017, Hyatt reported another breach of its payment systems, affecting guests at 41 of its properties in 11 countries.
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) PLC Data Breach (2016-2017): IHG, which operates thousands of hotels worldwide under various brands, announced in 2017 that its payment systems in certain U.S. and Puerto Rico-based franchise-operated hotels were breached. The cyberattack exposed guests’ payment card data at more than 1,000 of its hotels over a period of three months. The malware searched for track data stored on magnetic strips, which included name, card number, expiration date and verification code.
Hilton Worldwide (2015): Hilton confirmed a security breach that impacted many of its properties, including its flagship Hilton brand, Doubletree, Hampton Inn & Suites, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. With over 363,000 accounts put at risk, the breach targeted payment card information, including cardholder names, payment card numbers, security codes, and expiration dates. Although it was unclear whether sensitive information was ultimately extracted, the company was fined $700,000 after being accused of mishandling the breaches.

Staying one step ahead: Introducing AI-based SIEM

Next-gen SIEM solutions represent a new breed of cybersecurity platforms designed to overcome the limitations of legacy SIEMs. They embrace advanced technologies and methodologies to provide more proactive, adaptive, and efficient security operations.
AI-based Next-Gen SIEM solutions offer organisations the power of artificial intelligence to proactively identify and counteract threats before they cause substantial damage. These advanced systems come equipped with AI tools designed not just to react to threats but to anticipate them, ensuring a robust defensive posture against potential cybersecurity incidents. The core capabilities of AI-based Next-Gen SIEMs are universally applicable across industries and have proven particularly effective in addressing the complex cybersecurity challenges inherent to the hospitality sector. Through intelligent analysis, real-time monitoring, and predictive threat detection, these solutions equip hospitality organisations with the necessary tools to safeguard their digital environments, protect guest data, and maintain operational integrity in an ever-evolving threat landscape.
Here’s how advanced features tackle industry-specific challenges:

Real-Time Monitoring and Analysis

Hospitality networks are vast and complex, with guests constantly connecting and disconnecting. Traditional monitoring methods can’t keep up with such volume. AI-based SIEM systems analyse network traffic in real-time, identifying unusual patterns that could indicate a breach, such as unexpected access to guest data or unauthorised attempts to connect to the network.

Advanced Threat Detection

Cyber threats, like phishing, ransomware, and malware, are rampant in the hospitality sector, often targeting POS systems and reservation platforms. Leveraging machine learning, AI-based SIEMs learn from past incidents and global threat intelligence, detecting sophisticated attacks early by recognizing signs of compromise that humans might miss.

Automated Incident Response

In a fast-paced environment, the speed of response to a cyber threat can mean the difference between a minor incident and a major breach. Automated responses, such as isolating infected devices or blocking malicious IP addresses, are triggered based on predefined criteria, reducing the damage without waiting for human intervention.

User and Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA)

Insider threats, whether malicious or accidental, are a significant risk, especially with high employee turnover rates. UEBA features analyse normal user behaviour and detect anomalies that could indicate a threat, such as a staff member accessing data they shouldn’t be or an unusually large data transfer.

Integration with Other Security Tools

The hospitality industry uses a variety of security tools but managing them separately can create gaps in defence. AI-based SIEM solutions integrate with existing security infrastructure, such as firewalls and antivirus software, providing a centralized view of security alerts and enhancing overall protection.
By harnessing these key features, AI-based Next-Gen SIEM solutions offer a robust framework for the hospitality industry to not only respond to cyber threats more effectively but also to anticipate and neutralize them before they can cause significant damage. This proactive approach is essential for protecting sensitive guest information and ensuring the integrity of the hospitality sector’s digital environment.
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Secure your hospitality organisation with Blacklight AI SIEM

Blacklight’s AI SIEM represents a beacon of advanced cybersecurity for the hospitality industry, designed to address the sector’s unique challenges through the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning. Our solution offers a comprehensive suite of capabilities, including advanced threat detection, real-time monitoring, automated incident response, and predictive analytics, tailored to safeguard against the sophisticated cyber threats that target hospitality organizations. Blacklight’s AI SIEM empowers hospitality businesses to maintain a proactive security stance by providing enhanced visibility into network activities, ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, and facilitating swift incident resolution. This not only protects sensitive guest information but also preserves the trust and integrity that are foundational to the hospitality experience.
By leveraging Blacklight AI, organisations can benefit from:
Global visibility
Blacklight ingests, centralises, and correlates data from all sources, including IT, OT, and Blockchain, enabling accurate threat detection and global visibility of your ecosystem. It provides a centralized view of all global operations while mainting data locally and adhering to all local data regulations.
Predictive, AI-enhanced detection
By leveraging AI-based correlation and pattern recognition of security data and alerts, Blacklight equips your SOC (Security Operations Center) with the contextual insights needed to detect and respond to threats – no matter how nuanced or novel. Blacklight also integrates contextual threat intelligence to effectively rank and prioritise alerts.
Continuous Fine-Tuning
ML algorithms embedded in Blacklight’s AI engine work to continuously improve detection abilities, drastically reducing false positive alerts that traditionally overload SOC teams. This ensures that your team tackles high-fidelity, genuine alerts and focus their time on the real issues.
Integrating seamlessly with existing security infrastructure, Blacklight’s AI SIEM solution is a critical tool for hospitality organisations looking to fortify their cybersecurity defences. Its utilisation of UEBA helps in identifying anomalous behaviour, mitigating insider threats and external attacks. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, Blacklight’s AI SIEM stands as an essential AI security tool for the hospitality industry, enabling businesses to navigate cybersecurity challenges with confidence and ensure the continued delivery of exceptional guest services in a secure digital environment.

About Blacklight AI SIEM

Blacklight AI SIEM is a truly proactive AI-powered and cloud-native detection software. Architected, designed, and built using industry best practices, it offers the maximum level of flexibility and extensibility. At its core, Blacklight’s architecture is rooted in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics to empower cybersecurity professionals with the tools they need to predict, detect, and mitigate threats effectively.
Blacklight integrates with all cybersecurity solutions and serves as the command centre for any organisation. The solution enables security teams to uncover threats more efficiently, gain better visibility, significantly decrease costs, and minimise risk, all from a single platform.
Learn more: blacklightai.com
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