Juliet Dennis and Ben Ireland
Travel agents need to beef up cyber security in the wake of last weekend’s gobal ransomware attack.
That was the message to members at the Advantage Conference, who were warned hackers can shatter medium and small businesses such as independent agents.
NHS systems were hacked last week, while in February Abta was victim to a major breach of its security which could have led to sensitive data being accessed.
Alistair Pritchard, Deloitte’s lead partner for travel, told delegates at the conference in the south of France to make sure systems were up to date and renewed regularly.
He said: “Smaller businesses may not have the technology to keep up with it but big business is taking cybercrime very seriously.”
Delegates were shown a dramatic video of the scams businesses fall foul of, and asked whether they felt their businesses were at risk: the proportion who said they were wary of the threat of cybercrime rose from 58% before the video was shown to 75% after it aired.
In a Travel Weekly round-table discussion, agents raised cyber security as a new fear and said they planned swift action.
Simon Goddard, chief executive of Online Regional Travel Group, said he would make sure systems were up to date and look at cyber risk insurance, while Charmaine Hallmark, of Hallmark Travel, planned to refresh firewalls to protect cloud‑based data.
Tony Mann, owner of Idle Travel, said his business suffered a breach in recent years that stalled bookings for two days and acted as a “wake-up call”.
“That was a big loss,” he added. “It completely stopped us. You constantly have to keep up.”
Tracey Carter, director at Carrick Travel, said: “Hearing hackers can get in with emails sent to anybody opened my eyes. Anyone can innocently open an email without knowing the implications.”
Barry Gooch, chairman of Prevention of Fraud in Travel, said reports of ransomware attacks had seen a “big increase” this year.
“I’m sure some organisations will be prepared; however, I also think many organisations are not prepared for this type of attack and do not have the simple guidelines we give in place to enable them to survive and recover quickly.”
He stressed the importance of planning for attacks and training staff, adding: “There is a feeling these attacks are unstoppable and there is some sort of sophisticated and difficult-to-understand methodology behind them.
“Most criminals rely on someone accidentally ‘opening the door’ to a malware attack by opening a link or visiting a website that delivers the malicious payload of infected coding to your systems.”
Travel Weekly is holding a free Cyber Security Summit on June 22 in London, register here
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