New data released from Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research and FreedomPay, a global leader in data-driven commerce, reveals that while nearly all (96%) surveyed retail, restaurant and hospitality stakeholders are confident in their companies’ internal risk assessment processes, their satisfaction (95%) in the security of their systems is misaligned with reality, as one-third of companies (31%) have experienced a data breach in their company’s history. Of the companies that have been breached, 89% have been hit more than once in a year, and 69% of retail businesses have been breached upwards of three times in a year.
“Check Please! How Restaurant, Retail and Hospitality Businesses are Managing Cybersecurity Risks”—a joint study between Cornell and FreedomPay—is based on a new survey of 300 small, medium, and large-size enterprises across the hospitality, retail and food and beverage sectors.
“Especially over the past two years, cybersecurity has been top of mind for businesses as we navigate a highly complex eCommerce network,” said Chris Kronenthal, president, FreedomPay. “Retailers and hospitality businesses increasingly view their payments systems as more than transaction processing—they are important sources of data and customer insights. Merchants and consumers alike need the assurance that this data is being protected and managed properly.”
“These findings provide a baseline understanding of how key decision-makers are handling cybersecurity issues and offer key insights for optimizing and fortifying systems as we continue down this path of accelerated digital transformation,” said Professor Linda Canina, the Dr. Michael Dang Director of the Center for Hospitality Research at the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration.
Threats are rising, complexity abounds
With new cyber threats emerging daily both internally and externally, business leaders are juggling a full slate of concerns and challenges. Threats such as payment integrity (59%) and malware (58%) are the most cited concerns, with risk management (57%) cited as the biggest challenge leaders say their systems face. Companies also fear internal threats, with hospitality companies most frequently citing human error (86%) and lack of employee education (81%) as negatively impacting cybersecurity systems.
Businesses’ best efforts to protect themselves and customers are spurring growing complexity and system proliferation. The findings revealed 74% of companies use more than one cybersecurity system. Medium merchants (80%) are significantly more likely than small merchants (67%) to use more than one system. More than half of companies (56%) have many cybersecurity systems in many locations. Overall, companies are split on whether systems are governed by a single department (51%) or multiple (49%). Small merchants (57%) are significantly more likely to keep governance to one department, while large merchants (63%) are significantly more likely to have multiple departments involved.
Businesses are challenged to balance security with customer preferences, with many implementing heightened cybersecurity measures to make their customers feel more secured and reassured when making a purchase. The study found that 91% of companies believe their customers deeply care about cybersecurity, while 86% believe it increases customer loyalty. Yet, companies acknowledge the inherent tradeoffs—namely, 65% of leaders believe that customers are annoyed by extra security measures, and they want systems to be easy to use (67%).
Budgetary concerns may also play a factor in determining any potential system enhancements—among the few (15%) that currently do not have plans to enhance their system, they are most likely to cite preventative costs (61%) and an unwillingness to have a disruption in service (52%).
Despite these roadblocks, companies have said they are increasing or have increased their IT budgets, calling out the COVID-19 pandemic and technology as driving forces. Other notable findings: