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Your Restaurant Can Turn the Tables on Cybercrime With These 9 Strategies

Cybercrime used to seem like a fictional ploy in movies back in the day, but the reality is that it happens. Restaurant business owners are a preferred target of these attackers since their reputation has value. Plus, they hold data from their customers and vendors. 

Restaurants are vulnerable to cyberattacks. However, it doesn’t have to stay that way. There are techniques and processes to turn the tables and protect your business.

Cybercrime in the Restaurant Industry

Cybercrime is evident in almost every industry, with some of the most common cases happening to prominent establishments and the newest startups. Some scams are specific to the hospitality sector, including the following:

  • Phishing: Cyberattackers pretend to be real institutions like banks that need to collect sensitive information. Phishing is the most common cybercrime, with the U.S. Internet Crime Complaint Center receiving reports from 300,497 individuals in 2022.
  • Identity theft: Some attackers may copy a restaurant owner’s personal information or mimic your eatery’s social media account. Identity theft can lead to misinformation and scamming consumers while your name takes all the blame.
  • Ransomware: Sometimes, deceptive emails aren’t just about drawing out sensitive information. There are message attachments with ransomware, which can take your restaurant’s computer system down. Some hold the data hostage for a specific price.
  • Wrongful chargebacks: Customers or food vendors may dispute certain charges on their credit or debit accounts despite the legitimacy of transactions. While these errors can happen erroneously, some make a habit of committing this fraud.
  • Auto-gratuity scams: Auto-gratuity scams occur when restaurant employees add an extra service charge to a consumer’s bill despite preprogrammed gratuity. This can make a restaurant appear untrustworthy to dine in.
  • Intellectual property theft: Do you have a top-secret recipe that makes your restaurant successful? Hackers may intentionally access your data to discover the items and processes to cook up your famous product.
  • Supply theft: Restaurants use inventory management software with their food products. However, staff may purposefully wait to update the stock of certain ingredients. That way, they can take the items home. 

How Restaurant Owners Can Prepare

Cyber insurance can be a big helping hand in filing claims to cover the damages of these fraud incidents. However, it’s also possible to work on prevention. Many aspects of the restaurant require attention and protection, so be vigilant and install various cybersecurity measures. 

1. Know How to Identify

Cybercriminals can successfully fool and jeopardize restaurants if you aren’t careful. Be suspicious of the messages you receive in your email to identify cyberattacks. If an email seeks an urgent reply or threatens to close your bank account, it indicates phishing. A fishy attachment with zero information can be ransomware. 

Once you’ve identified it, you should tread very carefully. It’s best to avoid recklessly clicking files or links out of curiosity. Take note of the sender’s email address or domain name to put on the block list. Send the emails to spam and ignore them.

2. Conduct Background Checks on Employees

Internal cybercrimes can happen more often in the restaurant business. Personally interview each applicant to get a sense of their character. It’s also recommended that you background check your prospects before hiring them. Discuss whether they had a history of committing fraud in their previous workplaces. It’s better to be safe than sorry. 

3. Provide Cybersecurity Training

Your employees are connected to the restaurant and have access to the systems. There’s a chance they will be targets of other cyberattackers outside your circle. Equip them with the proper knowledge of handling cybercrimes. You can also teach them your business cybersecurity processes to ensure they uphold your security measures.

4. Stick to Secure Networks

Connect to a secure network when using your restaurant’s management software. Apply the same line of thinking when accessing financial information. Open these programs and data at your office or home rather than your free Wi-Fi connection at the restaurant or other spaces. Public Wi-Fi connections are vulnerable to hackers everywhere. 

5. Install Security Systems

Utilize different security systems to protect your physical and digital assets. For instance, place cameras and locks in restricted spaces at your business office and restaurant. For online protection, companies use AI to protect data from cyberthreats and catch malware as it occurs. Seek solutions to match your needs.

6. Control Accessibility

Limit accessibility to the accounts representing your restaurant. Use strong passwords for email addresses and important documents. Set up security questions to prevent strangers from changing the credentials. Some restaurant managers may also use biometric information for stricter authentication measures.

7. Follow the PCI DSS

Restaurants handle dozens of daily money transactions for guests, so following the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard is vital. PCI DSS policies can empower companies to improve the security of consumers’ credit, debit and cash card transactions. Your patrons are your bread and butter, so protect their data.

8. Run Inventory Checks

An inventory management system is a good start, but your efforts to manage stocks shouldn’t stop there. Food prices increased by around 2.6% from January 2023 to January 2024. Run inventory checks regularly to ensure your valuable products won’t get stolen. A daily sweep can help you catch mismatches. Conduct an inventory assessment weekly and monthly, too.

9.  Investigate Discrepancies

Investigate any discrepancies indicating a potential cybercrime. If it’s an internal fraud, discussing the incident with staff to find the perpetrator and resolve the issue is essential. For more severe cases involving external parties, call the police. Review your cybersecurity measures and make changes to prevent a similar problem from happening.

Safeguard Your Restaurant

The last thing you want when managing a food business is to have all your hard work slowly come undone from a phishing email or payment discrepancies. Employ the strategies above to deter cyberattacks and protect your restaurant.

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