Major Hotel Chain Reports One of Most Massive Data Breaches in History

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Published November 30, 2018 at 6:58 pm


A major hotel chain with locations across the world has reported one of the biggest data breaches in history.

On Nov. 30, Marriott announced that the private information of up to 500 million hotel guests has been compromised.

The data breach affects customers who made reservations at the brand’s Starwood properties.

“Marriott has taken measures to investigate and address a data security incident involving the Starwood guest reservation database,” the hotel wrote in a news release. “On November 19, 2018, the investigation determined that there was unauthorized access to the database, which contained guest information relating to reservations at Starwood properties on or before September 10, 2018.

On Sept. 8, Marriott says it received an alert from an internal security tool regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database in the United States.  

The company says it engaged leading security experts and learned that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014. The company says an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information.

Starwood brands include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton and Design Hotels.

Starwood branded timeshare properties are also included.

Marriott says it was able to decrypt the information and determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database.

For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information obtained includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.  

For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128).  

“There are two components needed to decrypt the payment card numbers, and at this point, Marriott has not been able to rule out the possibility that both were taken” the company says.  

“For the remaining guests, the information was limited to name and sometimes other data such as mailing address, email address, or other information.”

While the company has not yet confirmed if Canadian guests were affected, the effects of the breach could be far-reaching.

Marriott says it reported the incident to law enforcement and continues to support the investigation.  

The company has already begun notifying regulatory authorities.

“We deeply regret this incident happened,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s President and CEO. “We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves.  We are doing everything we can to support our guests, and using lessons learned to be better moving forward.”

“Today, Marriott is reaffirming our commitment to our guests around the world.  We are working hard to ensure our guests have answers to questions about their personal information, with a dedicated website and call center.  We will also continue to support the efforts of law enforcement and to work with leading security experts to improve. Finally, we are devoting the resources necessary to phase out Starwood systems and accelerate the ongoing security enhancements to our network,” he said.

Marriott says is has established a dedicated website and call center to answer questions customers may have about the breach.

Marriott also says it will begin sending emails on a rolling basis starting today (Nov. 30, 2018), to affected guests whose email addresses are in the Starwood guest reservation database.

Marriott says it’s also providing guests the opportunity to enroll in WebWatcher free of charge for one year.

For more information, click here.

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