Business news

Inside the Restaurant Industry’s Fight Against Cyber Fraud

In an era where technology reigns supreme, the battle against cyber fraud has escalated to unprecedented levels.

 As the culinary world adapts to the digital age, a new front has emerged in securing restaurant gift card transactions against online threats. 

From quaint cafes to Michelin-starred establishments, eateries worldwide are taking a proactive stance to ensure your dining experience remains delicious and secure.

Step into any modern restaurant, and you’ll likely encounter many digital devices seamlessly integrated into the dining experience. 

From tablets for ordering to contactless payment systems, technology has revolutionized how we interact with our favorite eateries. 

However, with these advancements come vulnerabilities, and restaurateurs take every precaution to fortify their digital fortresses.

“Cyber Fraud is now more prevalent than ever, but there are a multitude of measures that can be implemented to ensure profits and customers don’t suffer,” reveals Sivakumar Vinayagam, an expert in Cybersecurity and Software Engineering.

Currently Lead Systems Architect with Netmasons and its service Securetree, an online platform which provides integrated digital and plastic gift card solutions and systems, he has over 10 years of experience in the field.

Vinayagam is a specialist in the restaurant gift card space, managing the software needs of nearly 1000 clients.

He manages gift card security systems for nearly 1,000 clients. He collaborates with The 33 Restaurant Group in Texas, including Cadillac Pizza Pub and Heritage Pizza and Taproom, as well as the Ale Emporium chain in Indianapolis. 

Additionally, he works with Cunningham Restaurant Group, which operates in three different states, and the Altamarea Restaurant Group, which has over 20 restaurants worldwide. 

Vinayagam also manages the needs of The Flagship Restaurant Group, based in Omaha, Steak 44, and the Texas Cattle Company.Vinayagam’s programming expertise and system implementations have saved businesses millions.

“I want small and medium-sized enterprises to feel they have security, significant reach and success even without extensive resources or time,” he says.

“They should be able to concentrate on serving their customers and providing top-notch service without worrying about cyber attacks.”

In this article, Vinayagam highlights how restaurants can prevent themselves from becoming victims of cyber fraud and scammers.

Implementing Cutting-Edge Encryption

Encryption stands at the forefront of the restaurant industry’s defense arsenal against cyber threats. 

“By encoding sensitive information such as credit card details and customer data, restaurants thwart the attempts of cybercriminals aiming to intercept transactions,” says Vinayagam.

“Cutting-edge encryption protocols ensure that even if hackers breach the defenses, they’re met with an impenetrable wall of jumbled data,” he adds.

One way Vinayagam does this is by giving each gift card a unique 12-15 digit number, which can be used to check its balance on our website. 

However, scammers often use automated scripts to guess these numbers and access the balances.

Vinayagam has a solution: “You can build security features into a system. If multiple attempts to access card balances are detected from the same computer, it is possible to throttle the traffic, impose rate limits, and prevent further access,” he says. 

“You have to monitor for unusual activity continuously, and if a particular merchant or customer is frequently targeted, you can enhance security validations.”

These built-in security systems are crucial to Vinayagam’s role as a Cybersecurity specialist: “I ensure that cybersecurity measures are robust and effective in protecting our customers from fraud,” he adds.

By implementing these protections, it is possible to prevent fraudsters from exploiting gift card systems, safeguarding both customers and the businesses involved.”

Raising the Bar with PCI Compliance

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) sets the benchmark for safeguarding payment card data. 

Restaurants must diligently adhere to these stringent guidelines, ensuring that every aspect of their digital infrastructure meets the highest security standards. 

From secure networks to robust access controls, PCI compliance is non-negotiable in the battle against cyber fraud.

“One way a restaurant can adhere to the  PCI DSS is by implementing strong access control measures,” says Vinayagam. 

“This involves ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to cardholder data.

“They can also assign unique IDs to each person with access to cardholder data, enabling individual tracking and monitoring.

“Another way would be multi-factor authentication systems storing or processing cardholder data, adding an extra layer of security.”

Vinayagam also regularly monitors and tests networks to identify and address vulnerabilities: “I use tools like intrusion detection systems and intrusion prevention systems to monitor network traffic for suspicious activities and review logs and alerts regularly.

“You can also conduct regular vulnerability scans, both internally and externally, to identify and address security weaknesses.

By implementing these practices and others, a restaurant can ensure PCI DSS compliance, protecting cardholder data and reducing the risk of data breaches.

Heightened Vigilance Against Phishing Scams

Phishing scams continue to plague the digital landscape, posing a significant threat to consumers and businesses. 

Restaurants are actively educating their staff and patrons about the telltale signs of phishing attempts, from suspicious emails to counterfeit websites. 

“An example of a phishing scam could be an email that appears to be from a trusted supplier or a popular delivery service,” says Vinayagam.

“The email might inform the recipient about a critical issue with their order or account, urging them to click a link to resolve the problem.

“The link then leads to a fake website and when they enter their login credentials, the scammers capture this information, gaining unauthorized access, potentially leading to financial theft or data breaches.

“By fostering a culture of vigilance, eateries can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals.

“We also use our in-house Fraud Score tool to detect fraud. It assigns a risk score up to 100 based on various factors. If the score is too high, we hold the transaction for review.”

Deploying Advanced Fraud Detection Systems

In the ongoing arms race against cyber fraud, restaurants are enlisting the help of advanced fraud detection systems. 

These systems utilize artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to analyze transactional data in real-time to identify anomalies and suspicious activities. 

“By detecting fraudulent behavior before it escalates, eateries are safeguarding their customers and reputation,” says Vinayagam.

“An example is an advanced fraud detection system which utilizes machine learning algorithms to analyze transaction patterns in real-time,” he adds. 

“This type of system can monitor for unusual spending behaviors, such as multiple high-value gift card purchases or rapid-fire transactions. 

“It integrates with point-of-sale (POS) systems to flag suspicious activities instantly. If anomalies are detected, the system can automatically trigger alerts, freeze transactions, and require additional authentication before proceeding.”

This type of system can stop potential fraud attempts and also protects the restaurant’s revenue and customer data from cybercriminals.

Empowering Consumers with Security Awareness

Education is key in the fight against cyber fraud, and Vinayagam says it is imperative restaurants take proactive measures to empower their patrons with security awareness. 

“Whether through informative signage or digital campaigns, eateries need to educate consumers about the importance of secure transactions and the risks associated with cyber threats,” he reveals.

“Restaurant owners and chains often face a significant barrier in embracing these advances due to concerns about change. 

“They fear technology, thinking it’s hard to understand and implement. However, these systems can actually improve both their income and the customer’s restaurant experience.”

Vinayagam adds that by fostering a culture of security consciousness, restaurants can build trust and loyalty with their customer base.

“In an age where technology permeates every aspect of our lives, the battle against cyber fraud is more critical than ever,” says Vinayagam. 

“I work hard to leave no stone unturned in my quest to protect against cyber threats. I want diners and restaurant owners alike to feel secure and safe.”

About Sivakumar Vinayagam

Sivakumar Vinayagam is a distinguished Software Engineer and Cybersecurity expert specializing in B2B API integration and SaaS web application development. With extensive experience in complex API integrations for POS systems and scalable microservice architectures, he excels in project management, coding, and seamless deployment.

As Lead Systems Architect at Netmasons Securetree since May 2019, Vinayagam has advanced technological innovations and delivered high-quality software solutions. His expertise spans C#Razor Pages, NopCommerce, Redis cache, and Docker cloud hosting, enabling efficient, scalable application development and deployment.

Vinayagam’s career began as a Programmer Analyst at SourceHOV in Chennai. He then held roles at Cognizant and Sallie Mae, where he honed his software development and database management skills. He is also an Operational Expert adept at managing client data migrations for gift card and e-commerce SaaS solutions.

Currently, as Lead Engineer with Netmasons Securetree, Vinayagam drives software development innovation, guided by customer feedback and market trends. He holds a B.E. in Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineering from Anna University and is pursuing an MBA at Indiana University – Kelley School of Business, blending technical and business acumen.

Committed to mentorship, Vinayagam provides computing skills and resources to students at his former high school in India. With over a decade of experience, he is a versatile and highly skilled professional in both technical and operational aspects of software engineering.


To Top

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This