Category Archives: Technology

Private Internet: Why Your B&B Needs It

Bed and breakfast inns used to be considered a place where people could go to get away for the weekend, but cell phones, laptop computers and tablets have changed all of that.  Increasingly, people who used bed and breakfasts also bring their work with them.  They check emails, work on their laptops, make use of company credit cards and access sensitive information.  This happens with personal information, too.  Credit card numbers, banking information and passwords are all used on Wi-Fi networks provided by bed and breakfast owners.

But here’s the problem: these networks aren’t secure, even if they are password protected.  Any device connected to a network is visible to all the others on that network, making your guests vulnerable to snooping and data theft.

The Costs of Cyber Crime

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You may have heard about some of the high-profile data breaches in the news:

  • American retailer Target was hacked in 2013, and hackers gained access to 40 million credit card numbers. The breach cost the company $39 million in settlements.
  • In 2014, Sony Pictures Entertainment revealed that personal information, including 47,000 Social Security numbers had been stolen from their network, along with electronic files, unreleased films, movie scripts, and email messages.
  • An enormous data breach at the United States Internal Revenue service saw hackers steal information from 330,000 individuals, resulting in the theft of $50 million in federal funds.

It’s important to keep in mind that these successful hacks happened to large
organizations with extensive IT departments.  If it can happen to them, imagine how much more difficult it would be for small businesses, such as a bed and breakfast inn, to defend against criminals.

Data theft is estimated to cost over $400 billion annually.  It’s a low-risk activity, where a criminal can connect a computer to a Wi-Fi hotspot, then simply read the data on the network.  Hackers can also set up an “Evil Twin” network—one that looks official, but isn’t—and have people log into it.  Users can access the Internet as usual, but hackers can log everything they do.

How Online Safety Relates to You

If you think that data theft can’t happen to you or your small bed and breakfast, think again.  Between 2010 and 2012, 72% of all data breaches involved companies which employed 100 employees or less.  On top of this, Symantec’s 2015 Internet Security Threat Report shows that the hospitality industry is in the top ten sectors breached by cyber criminals, with 1.8 million identities exposed that year.

Top Ten Sectors

Three quarters of Canadian bed and breakfast operations employ fewer than five people and, with most having little or no technical knowledge about network privacy, they can be easy targets for hackers.  With no IT departments for the industry, owner/operators are left to fend for themselves when it comes to online safety.

As for your guests, a recent Symantec survey in the European Union found that 59% of the people reported previous problems with data protection, such as email accounts being hacked, stolen bank details, online identity theft, and more.  An even more telling number is that 88% of respondents say that data security is the most important factor when considering doing business with another company.

When you take these numbers into account, it becomes obvious that your guests are deeply concerned about their online privacy, and many are taking steps to help keep their private information safe.  Unfortunately, they often leave devices like cell phones or tablets unprotected.  Without proper privacy measures, this often leaves them vulnerable when connected to Wi-Fi networks.

VPN Hardware: A Simple Solution

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A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows devices to safely connect without being visible to others on the same network.  Many different VPN services are available, but these still carry risk to the user.  When connected to public networks, data can still be vulnerable to criminals with the right tools and knowledge.  At the same time, software must be installed on the devices themselves, and limits on the number or types of devices that can use the service are also in place.

Using VPN routers eliminates any restrictions on devices.  This hardware runs in the same way as an ordinary router, but offers encryption of data from the point of connection.  Any device is compatible—phones, tablets, laptops, even gaming consoles—so guests can be sure of their privacy, regardless of how they are accessing the network.  There is also no software to install, making connection for guests no different than connecting to normal Wi-Fi networks.

An additional advantage to guests is the ability to “roam at home” while using the network.  A VPN can show a user as accessing the Internet from their own country, and allows them to view all the websites and content that they get at home.  Benefits like this can add value to a visit from a foreign country.

The installation of VPN hardware is no different than the installation of a normal network router: plug it into your Internet access point, plug in the power, and it’s ready to go.  Some VPN routers allow for automatic updates, keeping the firmware current with security measures and patches.  VPN routers with this ability need minimal technical skills for owners to maintain them.

Featuring safe, private Internet access as a standard amenity can appeal to the many people who consider data privacy to be important.  Bed and breakfast inns that actively advertise this feature will likely seem more attractive to business people, and other guests who seek better protection from criminals.

Data protection is a growing industry, with businesses and individuals more concerned than ever about the safety of their personal information.  In a highly competitive market, advertising private network service to guests can make a difference to everyone who is concerned about the issue.

About the author:  Dale Crangle is a freelance content specialist.  He has written a number of projects for tech companies, software developers and various other industries.  He currently lives with his wife in Mississauga, Ontario.

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Personal digital advertising is already somewhat upon us.  All you have to do is browse the web for a while and it would be hard to not see that the ads that pop up on many web pages are tailored to your previous searches.  Technology can now take a look at your browsing history and show you advertising based on your interests.  Netflix has similar technology which gives you suggestions based on movies or shows that you have watched and ranked highly in the past, as does Facebook, based on the things you like or links you click on.

Moving forward from online activity, researchers are developing technology that could feel more like a scene from Minority Report, as Tom Cruise walks through a department store or subway station and is bombarded with in-store ads personalized to his taste based on previous shopping.  Well, science fiction is (once again) taking another step to becoming reality.

One day, you could walk into a Tim Hortons donut shop and the menu boards will change based on your interests to give you a personalized menu for browsing.  This technology may feel like something out of Minority Report, when Tom Cruise walks through a department store or subway station and is bombarded personalized ads, but science fiction is (once again) taking another step to becoming reality.

Cineplex Digital is headquartered in London, Ontario, and has supplied roughly 33,000 advertising screens to various retailers around the world, including Tim Hortons and McDonalds restaurants and banks.  The feeling in the advertising community is that, in today’s world, advertising must be flashy and kinetic in order to get people’s attention and keep it away from social media.

Recently, Sport Check opened a store in the West Edmonton mall that has over 800 screens in the store.  These allow you wave a shoe in front of the screen in order to get more information about the shoe (or other items).  Screens in store also allow you to interact with them and personalize your team jersey or see photos mailed in to the store from local community sports teams.  The rest of the screens flash advertising from many different manufacturers, hoping that you’ll spot something that interests you.

Cineplex Digital is looking to further advance this kind of advertising, using mobile devices.  Installed apps would communicate with the store’s computers and provide you personalized ads either on your phone or on the screens.  It could provide customers with suggestions that complement their shopping by providing other products related to the store.

Services like this not only provide customers with additional suggestions, but they also cut down on the perceived wait times at stores.  Just yesterday, I was in line at a local Pizza Pizza showing movie trailers on one of its digital boards.  I stood and watched the trailers and hardly noticed the time it took to get the order ready.

Restaurants are even getting in on the act, using digital tables which allow customers to order directly from the table top with interactive menus.  Some tables even allow for credit cards to be placed on the table in order to pay for the orders.  In the meantime, patrons can play table top games while they wait for their orders.  I’m sure it’s only a small step for tables to be able to show sporting events, or allow patrons to set up an account that tracks their orders and shows them other foods they may be interested in.

Although it may be a far cry from the retinal scans of Minority Report, the concept itself is upon us.  Depending on your views, that could be both good and bad.  I get irritated with pop-up ads everywhere, but at the same time, personalized advertising does work.  I’ve clicked on many ads that I’ve seen in my browser, leading me to something I might not otherwise have found, and I have watched digital screens while standing in line at a restaurant.  As technology moves forward, so does the advertising industry.  Regardless of how you feel about advertising, it’s clearly here to stay and we will start to see more and more of it used in creative ways.