Ultimate control of telecoms leave hotels vulnerable
Ultimate control of telecoms leave hotels vulnerable
10 DECEMBER 2018 7:05 AM

Sino-American trade discussions, the arrest of a senior Huawei executive and the data breach at Marriott International might not be connected, but these incidents do raise alarming worries regarding guest security, corporate sustainability and even—at the risk of hyperbole—global supremacy.

The data breach, or hack, affecting approximately 500 million guests of legacy Starwood brands, just might—perhaps, maybe, allegedly, reputedly, according to unnamed sources—have derived in China, or so muses a 6 December Reuters article.

On 1 December, Vancouver police arrested Meng Wanzhou, CFO and deputy chair of Chinese telecommunication company Huawei. She’s also the daughter of its founder. There is speculation she might be extradited to the U.S. to stand trial over what U.S. officials allege is Huawei’s illegal trading with Iran.

Of course, China and the U.S. are in talks concerning trade agreements and tariff impositions.

It is not far-fetched to conclude the connection between these two incidents—which both might turn out to have absolutely zero validity—is who will have the ultimate control of bandwidth and telecoms muscle?

Many sources have stated that there is opposition to Huawei’s technology having too large a part to play in the imposition of the next generation of mobile technology, known as 5G.

Hotel distribution is nearly fully dependent on fast, effective and dependable telecommunications, and the struggle between economies will undoubtedly be waged more in this realm than any other.

On 6 December, too, United Kingdom telecommunications company O2’s 4G data networks fell. This firm has 25 million direct users and seven million subsidiary ones.

Businesses suffered losses of income. Customers were frustrated.

Network equipment provider Ericsson issued a joint apology with O2, which is owned by Spanish company Telefonica. The telecommunications industry is a worldwide, interconnected, multinationally owned behemoth, and the hotel industry might well be rife with guest data-security weakness. Hotel rooms are resold every night, and there are hundreds of thousands of hotels. The mathematics alone is enough to humble any tech-security consultant, not alone a hotelier.

The industry is reliant on its third-party partners. What can hoteliers do to make themselves more secure?

I am not a conspiracy theorist. I would be amazed if anything of this had anything to do with the spat earlier this year over Marriott listing Taiwan and Tibet as independent countries. But I rather feel this space will get more fraught, the 21st century equivalent of the Royal Navy needing to make sure it alone had control over the seven seas.

Global tourism might always be at threat if cyber espionage and wrestle for control develop new heights.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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