As a vacation rental owner, you’ve probably given plenty of thought to safety measures like smoke alarms, security cameras, and door and window locks. But have you ever considered protecting the internal part of your business? Your vacation rental data is just as important to protect as your physical rental property. Guests share private information with you, like their name, driver’s license, and credit card, and this private information needs to be protected.
What Are the Main Threats to Your Vacation Rental Data?
Phishing refers to a type of spam that is based on deception. In a phishing scam, you’ll receive an email or other form of communication in which the scammer poses as a legitimate business or trustworthy channel. For example, you might get an email that says it’s from PayPal, but actually isn’t. The email might guide you to click a link and log in, but it won’t take you to your real PayPal account. Instead, you’ll be sending your login information directly to the scammer. This type of scam can lead to issues like malware, data loss, and even finance and identity theft. As you can imagine, this isn’t something you want to happen to your vacation rental business!
Any type of software intentionally designed to harm systems is referred to as malware. Your device can be infected due to phishing emails, malicious networks, or other sources. The worst type of malware for vacation rental owners is the type that seizes data. In this case, the person behind the malware may use the information they’ve gained to demand ransom in order for you to safely regain your data. Malware can take personal information from your computer files, steal your bank and credit card login information, turn your computer into a bot that performs email scams, pop up ad windows when you use your computer, and even send ransom threats.
Denial of Service Attack
If you run a larger vacation rental business, you might also need to look out for denial of service attacks. This refers to a threat actor preventing legitimate users from accessing a certain system or website. They do this by flooding the website with invalid requests. This can then lead to financial loss for the victim of the attack since customers aren’t able to access the website.
How to Protect Your Vacation Rental Data
It’s just as important to protect your vacation rental data as it is to protect your physical vacation rental property. Here are a few effective methods of protection.
Use antivirus software
Antivirus software is a type of computer program. It scans your computer regularly, goes through all files and directories, and removes any viruses that have infected it. Many antivirus softwares can also prevent your system from getting infected with new viruses and other types of malware.
Anytime you think your computer has been infected with malware, you can run a manual scan with your antivirus software. There are also antivirus browser extensions that protect you while you’re online. They’ll warn you if you try to visit a dangerous website and will also alert you to privacy issues like tracking cookies.
In addition, most antivirus software monitors network traffic to and from your device. This allows it to recognize any new and suspicious software and alert you to it.
Create strong passwords
Using strong passwords is a simple way to protect your data. Never use the word “password” as a password, and avoid including any personal information that could easily be found in your social media profiles or elsewhere online. This includes your name, family members’ names, pets’ names, your birth year, your anniversary, and so on. Using these personal details makes it easy for hackers to guess your password.
You’ll also want to avoid any sequential numbers or letters, like “abc,” “lmnop,” “123,” or “789.” “Qwerty” is another one to steer clear of.
When it comes to passwords, the longer they are, the stronger they are. Use a mix of characters: capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters like the pound sign, exclamation point, and asterisk.
If you struggle to make up and remember passwords, use a password manager and random password generator to do it for you!
Install a firewall
A firewall is a type of software or hardware that functions as a filtration system for data entering your network or computer. It scans packets for malicious codes and attacks established threats. If your firewall flags a data packet as a security risk, it’s prevented from entering the network and reaching your computer.
Look out for email scams
Email scams are extremely common, and you’re probably already familiar with them. But if you’re not sure what to look out for, here are a few common indicators that a seemingly professional or legitimate email is actually a scam.
- The email is sent from a public domain, like “@gmail.com,” “@yahoo.com,” or “@aol.com.” Any legitimate company will not use a public email domain. Instead, they’ll have their own email domain. For example, any email from PayPal will end in “@paypal.com.” If you receive an email from “firstname.lastname@example.org,” that’s someone posing as PayPal in an attempt to get your login information.
- The domain name is misspelled. For instance, a company trying to be perceived as Amazon might have the email address “email@example.com.” To anyone who’s not looking very closely, this misspelling might go unnoticed–and that’s what scammers are hoping for. Any legitimate email address will not include a misspelling of the company’s name.
- The email is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. If you come across an email claiming you need to reset your password or confirm your identity, but the email is full of strange errors and spelling mistakes, it’s likely a scam. This is thought to be a method implemented by scammers to target only the most unsuspecting users.
- There are suspicious links and attachments. Generally, if you weren’t expecting to receive an attachment, do not open it. The same goes for suspicious links. If you have a gut feeling that a link or attachment doesn’t seem right, listen to it and do not click the link or download the attachment.
- The email has a sense of urgency. In a bid to get you to act quickly without examining the email too much, scammers impart a sense of urgency with their messages. You’ll often get scam emails saying things like, “Your account will be deactivated,” “Your account has been compromised,” and “Confirm your credit card details to protect your account.” These types of messages aim to get users to respond quickly, before they realize that they’re actually giving their personal information to a scammer.
Offer a secure payment method for your guests
Credit cards are the best secure payment method. They have strong fraud protection, it’s easy to reverse charges if needed, and they’re typically preferred by most guests. Since credit cards aren’t connected to bank accounts, they give guests additional security in comparison to a debit card or check. In addition, chip technology makes it difficult for hackers to steal your credit card data.
Be sure to mention that guests’ data will not be passed on to third-party companies, and don’t ask your guests for more information than is necessary. If your site were to be compromised, the damage could be worse the more information you have in your system. Only asking for the information you need is another way to protect vacation rental data.
Use SSL encryption on your website
Websites that have “https” in their URL have SSL encryption. This simply means that the website is private, secure, and safe to use. SSL encryption is a safety measure for guests that will make them feel more comfortable booking through your website and making online payments. In addition, SSL encryption boosts your SEO, which will improve your visibility in search results!
The top threats to your vacation rental data include phishing scams, malware, and denial of service attacks. Here are the most effective ways to protect your data:
- Use antivirus software to protect your computer from malware.
- Create strong passwords so that hackers can’t easily guess them.
- Install a firewall to keep out malicious or threatening data packets.
- Look out for email scams, and don’t share your login information with scammers.
- Offer a secure payment method for your vacation rental guests, such as credit cards.
- Use SSL encryption on your website to ensure it’s safe and secure.