Too Many Event Planners Aren’t Thinking About Cyber Security. Here’s Why They Should Be.

Every year event planning takes a giant step forward in how events are organized and what they offer. Our post on the 5 Noteworthy New Event Tech Trends of 2019 showed how technology is now a huge part of pulling off a successful event. This ranges from attendee tracking and facial recognition technology, to clever flooring that collects floor traffic data.

Each of these innovations adds to the experience of attending an event, but more technology also open the door to cyber-attacks. And as events become more and more digitally focused, the risk of data and files being stolen increases. But event planners aren’t thinking about the threat of cyber security enough. Here’s why they should be.

Tackling cybercrime has become one of the top priorities for companies in the 21st century. The 2017-18 EY Global Information Security Survey found that 87% of companies believe they require up to 50% more budget for cyber security. The demand for industry experts is increasing every year as companies look to increase their security profile, as is the importance of cyber security experts being an integral part of most companies. 

Corporations aren’t the only ones focused on upping their cyber security. Maryville University details how the International Data Corporation believes that going forward: “75% of chief security officers and chief information security officers will report directly to the CEO, not the CIO.” This rising demand for specialists is being reflected in universities across the country with national competitions on cyber security. 

In fact, the University of Kansas recently won a cyber security competition set up by the United States Department of Energy. This shows how seriously the government is taking the increasing threat of cyber attacks, and why event planners must also take the threat seriously. 

Events or conferences may seem like an unlikely target for a cyber attack, but the amount of information and data on attendees makes it attractive for hackers. Corporate events will often feature multiple companies using the lasted connected technology to attract customers and future partners. If their devices are connected to the internet, they could be using a network that maybe isn’t as secure as their normal company network.

Those who open documents on their devices could unwittingly open themselves up for a data breach. This is why event cyber security expert Gijs Verbeek told Cit Magazine that that agencies, corporations, and venues have a responsibility to make cyber security a priority: “It doesn’t just fall to venues. Event planners should be hiring experts and taking further measures to protect themselves and their clients.” 

There are many ways hackers can access data on laptops and other devices. Computer Weekly explain how phishing is a common route into a laptop. This is where a hacker sends a fake email supposedly from a well known business or even the company that the laptop owner works for.

If the email is accepted as real and a link is clicked, an attachment is downloaded, or sensitive information is entered, the hacker will have access to the laptop and the network it is connected too. At a networking event where the goal is to collect email addresses in order to start networking, a hacker could potentially hide a phishing email within the numerous legitimate emails. 

Another danger is physical security threats with hackers inserting a device into a company laptop. Tech Rader outlines how even modern laptops using USB-C ports are not safe, as hackers can alter the charger to hijack the computer. As the laptop would charge as normal, the user wouldn’t notice that it is allowing a hacker access to the device. A large event, with a large crowd would make such a swap much easier. And with event managers holding lots of sensitive information and files on attendees, they could easily become targets, especially if they are not keeping a close eye on their laptop. 

If an event is hacked, the event organizer could be liable for any data stolen, especially if they set up the network that the attendees used. Marianne Bonner, in her article The Dangers of Cyber Attacks shares how small businesses are often most at risk from cyber attacks. This is because they often don’t have the robust cyber defenses of larger corporations. She notes how any data breach could easily lead to privacy lawsuits. With so much attendee information being held and transferred at an event, a serious breach could lead to multiple lawsuits.

As you can see, it’s absolutely vital for event planners to have a good cyber security plan in place. Hackers are always looking for an easy entry point to access sensitive and valuable data, and events have the potential to offer them outlets into multiple organizations. This is why event planners need to get serious about cyber security, particularly since events are becoming more digitally driven with evolving technology like AI.