6 min read

To get in the game, restaurants need to evolve with the ever-changing customer-driven digital landscape. They have more choices than ever before. They want convenience, great service, and an experience that matches their expectations, which are not like they once were in many cases.

This means more engagement with technology. Restaurants, bars, and other food service providers already have a unique set of network challenges and PCI compliance requirements to fulfill, but imagine what the future holds.

Whether you are part of corporate, a franchise owner, a franchisee, or the owner of a single location, the computer network in a food service establishment can quickly become highly complex.

Keeping up with the latest ordering and customer service trends is imperative to success and it means a competitive edge and growth, but also more risk.

Many of these solutions are digital devices connected to the Internet, which introduces a host of risks to the franchise itself and the consumer who uses it. These technologies are designed to make customers’ experiences easier, faster, and more enjoyable. Key trends include digital bills, touchscreen tabletop menus, digital signage, and even table tablets at some chains.

Restaurants with multiple locations are taxed with increased pressure to succeed in different geographic locations, with potentially different demographics. This means implementing popular technology to serve that area—sometimes quickly—to keep the business afloat. The faster their success, customer enjoyment, and diner loyalty accelerate the more likely these locations are to become and remain go-to dining spots. However, in the rapid shuffle of getting these technologies set up, security is often forgotten.

It’s a harsh reality that the more devices a business uses, the more attack vectors are available to cybercriminals. Lloyd's and Juniper Research estimate that the global cost of handling cyberattacks is expected to rise to $2.1 trillion by 2019.

In an industry where margins are critical and the cost of doing business can make or break a restaurant, it is important that these businesses protect their networks for technology growth and security. Security tools and services should be implemented alongside customer service technologies, to bring more people to the business, while protecting these customers from data breaches and the restaurant’s brand from reputational and financial loss.

The top five virtual attacks that restaurant brands and franchisees need to be ready for, include:

1. Hackers:

These highly skilled computer experts use their knowledge to exploit or break into connected devices and computer systems. They target restaurants due to the abundance of poorly secured systems. Once they find a vulnerability and get into the network, they go after the POS systems. Due to the POS doing the simple job of processing transactions, the typical alarm bells of a desktop computer hack would not be seen by a user, for example, ransomware messages, degraded performance, etc.

2. POS Malware:

Sometimes malware discreetly slips by antivirus programs and then stealthily extracts payment data, despite the presence of traditional firewalls. From there, it can nab stolen data slowly, making it look like normal traffic. Weeks or months could go by. By then, who knows how many customer credit cards have been breached?

3. Ransomware:

Imagine logging into your back-office system only to be greeted with a frozen screen. You cannot access your files and then see a ransomware message: Pay $15,000 to access encrypted files. There’s nothing that can be done at that point. Ransomware prevents users from accessing their system until a ransom is paid to get a decryption key of some kind. Ransomware attacks are on the rise and there is no end in sight.

4. Inside threats:

Whether it’s an honest mistake or a disgruntled employee, inside threats account for about 50 percent of all security incidents (Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report). It’s nearly impossible to stop this from occurring, but with the right managed security in place, it can be thwarted or caught before real damage is done.

5. Wi-Fi security:

Your family-friendly Wi-Fi offering is a must-have for many consumers today.

Securing your Wi-Fi with firewalls and ensuring cellular backup from downtime will protect your cashflow, your own restaurant’s security, and patrons’ security. Having separate Wi-Fi access points for patrons versus the POS and business network is crucial. But now that you have the Wi-Fi access points secure and separate, what about downtime?

You can lose connection at any time and lost connection means lost business. Having a backup cellular option in place is easy, affordable, and imperative today.

Many restaurant owners set up a firewall as a basic security measure and believe their networks will be sufficiently protected. In today’s cyber world, firewalls can’t just be set up and run on their own. While a network firewall is a fundamental security component, it must be actively monitored, managed, and updated to be effective.

Even still, a managed firewall cannot defend every threat vector. Attack and breach prevention requires a new approach, and many products and service providers simply do not have the ability to stop cybercriminals before they do legitimate damage.

Prevention goes beyond having a firewall and anti-virus.

To truly be secure today, restaurant brands and franchisees should seriously consider the following:

  • File integrity monitoring tells you when files have changed that weren’t supposed to change
  • Unified threat management appliances are used to integrate security features such as firewall, gateway antivirus, and intrusion detection
  • PCI DSS compliance is, at minimum, the foundation from which to begin and a way to ensure basic needs stay implemented
  • Managed Endpoint Threat Detection and Response or SIEM - security information and event management is used to centrally collect, store, and analyze log data and other data from various systems to provide a single point of view from which to be alerted to potential issues
  • 4G failover to cellular is an essential component to ensure no downtime for your business, which could mean lost revenue

SIEM is a key technology in a company’s security stack that should be considered an essential component, but is often difficult for smaller, dispersed restaurants to manage effectively. Anything from a firewall, to a server, to a POS system that creates log data is analyzed by the SIEM. The log data is fed into the SIEM and then evaluated against a previously created ruleset in order to determine if there any anomalies – unusual activity that can indicate an attack – and then generates red flags for those that need to be brought to the IT staff’s attention. The SIEM can prioritize these anomalies, categorize them, and finally generate alerts for the future based on their findings.

There’s a prominent, common challenge for restaurants with fewer than 100 locations: it is difficult and expensive to hire and retain an IT security team that has the bandwidth and capability needed to monitor and analyze the alerts and reports produced by SIEM technology.

Further complicating this task is that teams must be able to recognize the real threats from the mass amounts of data and know the appropriate remediation steps required to mitigate them.

For optimal success, security, and growth - advanced tools including SIEM - should ideally be outsourced to a managed security firm that specializes in this type of service. This includes having expert threat researchers that are constantly looking for new activity that could point to a hacker trying to steal data from your systems.

These tips should enable multi-location restaurants to expand their businesses while keeping their customers’ data secure and loyalty strong.