I recently accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at an upcoming International Tourism Security and Safety Summit conference, which will take place in Cairo 17-21 October, and the invitation got me thinking. What is the greatest security threat to tourism in 2009? There is plenty of competition for this unwelcome title. We readily think of terrorism, war, violent crime, sea piracy, political unrest and all these have three things in common: they threaten blood, pain and create very negative media headlines.

However, the biggest threat that every wired business faces to the security and viability of our businesses sits on our desk, in many cases we carry it with us, and in many cases its nestles in our hand. The desktop computer, laptop, notebook or BlackBerry is an essential part of our business life.

At its best modern computer technology and the World Wide Web has made travel arrangements accessible to all and we can obtain instant confirmations on a myriad of travel and travel related arrangements. However, the tool of our convenience and global connectivity is also highly vulnerable to disruption, corruption, financial and data theft.

Cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism is now the greatest threat to all business and travel and tourism is squarely in the firing line of the bad guys. Piracy in the cyberworld can range from faked bookings and scams to identity theft of your customers to downright disruption of all e-communications emanating to and from your business.

In some case, cyber-terrorism has involved electronic extortion practiced against businesses with the threat of destroying a company’s entire computer system. According to recent research,h only 4 percent of tourism and hospitality businesses have really taken steps to deal with this problem.

Do we back up data properly? Do we store this data in an alternative location from our office? Can we get up off the floor if our computer systems crash or are crashed by a cyber baddie?

While most computer owners have installed various forms of anti virus protection, the cyber-terrorism pros can frequently circumvent these defenses. Associarte Professor Bill Hutchinson, who is the IBM Professor of Computer studies at Edith Cowen University in Perth, Western Australia, edits a journal entitled The Journal of Information Warfare. Hutchinson believes that all businesses really have to get switched onto dealing with this growing threat.

The fact is that cyber-terrorism may not cause blood, pain or generate headlines, but have the potential to cost our businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue, reputation and business down-time.

I hasten to add that I am not anywhere in Professor Hutchinson’s league as a cyber terrorism expert but for those eTN readers who want to know some more about cyber terrorism and all the other more traditional security threats you may be interested in checking out the International Tourism Safety and Security Summit in Cairo, Egypt Oct 17-21.

The Website for information and registrations is www.tourism-summit.com