Be Safe in Your Travels

Do you remember that one hotel you’ve stayed at during the course of your travels? You remember the one I’m talking about; it looked good on the outside, but inside, there was no security. It sort of left you feeling weak in the knees hoping nothing bad would happen.

If you are an integrator and one of your clients owns a hotel or even a chain of hotels, get up on your soapbox and help them better understand security. Even if a hotel has a strong security policy, with proper procedures in place, they are still vulnerable. There are cyber-attacks, theft, fraud and a myriad of other things that could cause a patron to pause.

Like you, I travel a lot. The first things I look for in my travels are elements of security. I look at the airport; I look around inside a restaurant; and, I look inside the hotel. I’m sure you will agree that having robust security in place means a better and safer guest experience. It also means that employees will think more about safety and security, which will help minimize danger and reduce theft.

When you arrive at a hotel, though, security is probably the last thing on your mind. You’re probably more concerned about getting checked in and making that meeting on your schedule, or getting out, seeing the local sights. The first thing I do when going into a hotel room is flip the additional door lock and slide the swing door bar into place. I feel secure in the room, but when a room is not occupied, the hotel is responsible for the security of the property.

In the summer of 2012, security researcher and software developer Cody Brocious exposed a security flaw in some Onity door locks, revealing a lock-hacking technique that received widespread attention. At that time, dozens of hotel guestroom burglaries took place in Texas and Arizona. Onity announced a fix for the lock and shipped out 1.4 million solutions for its locks to hotel properties, though it took some hotels a while to get in step.

Here are a few steps a hotel or hotel chain can take to increase guest security:

Update your locks. Systems that track who goes in and out of rooms can serve as a deterrent. If there is an audit process on the door, rooms are less likely to be the subject of a theft.

Set-up cameras. Thanks to new innovations with software, video cameras can now recognize activity in an area and provide an alert. There could also be a third-party monitoring the property with the ability to audio call to advise someone who doesn’t belong on the property that they are being watched.

Customer service. When guests arrive at your hotel, greet them in a way that they know they are welcome, and in the case of an unsuspecting thief, they know the property is being watched at all times. You don’t have to hire more people, just make your employees more aware of security procedures.

Cultivate a sense of ownership. When employees have a sense of ownership, this increases their empowerment, making security on the property much tighter. Employees will be able to solve safety and security problems more quickly and efficiently. This is true in any work environment.

Hire the right employees. Most employers now require drug screening and a criminal background check. Good idea, but they also should have certain controls in place that new employees know about, such as a monitoring system that will monitor their activities so crimes of opportunity become far less likely. For instance, handling a cash bag should require that two employees are involved. The reasoning seems pretty logical.

Add monitoring to video surveillance. Most hotels have video surveillance in the lobby or at the front of the facility. They even have surveillance that monitors cash drawers, but now there is software that enables hotel owners to match transactions with video surveillance.

Protect electronic borders. Computer system hacking has become all too common. Russian hackers tapped into Wyndham Worldwide’s data center in Phoenix three times between 2008 and 2010. The result was more than 600,000 payment card accounts tapped, leading to more than $10.6 million in fraud. The result for Wyndham was a federal lawsuit alleging that they failed to implement reasonable data security measures.

Protect passwords. Not all cybercrimes occur online. Employees should have awareness about the physical security of computers, access control and passwords. The easiest and most familiar means for criminals to gain access into a computer is by conning an employee. Passwords should change every three months, and employees and security staff should always keep an eye out for people who are in staff-only areas of a facility.

If you have a question about hotel security during your travels, ask someone. Any trip you take, whether for business or pleasure, make sure you not only feel safe and secure, but that you are as safe and secure as possible at all times.

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Security Today.

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