The hack began in 2014, before Marriott offered to buy Starwood for $12.2 billion in November 2015.
Marriott International confirmed this week that hackers managed to steal about 500 million records from its Starwood Hotels reservation system in an attack that began four years ago. The attack exposed personal data of customers including some payment card numbers.
The hack began in 2014, before Marriott offered to buy Starwood for $12.2 billion in November 2015, acquiring brands including Sheraton, Ritz Carlton and the Autograph Collection to create the world’s largest hotel operator. The company closed the Starwood deal in September 2016.
Marriott said for 327 million guests, compromised data could include passport details, phone numbers and email addresses. For some others, it could include credit card information.
Marriott said it first found out about the breach after an internal security tool sent an alert on Sept. 8.
Marriott said it would inform affected guests about the breach, starting Friday, and that it had reported it to law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
John Shier, senior security advisor for Sophos commented on the hack by stating, "The potential fallout from the Marriott’s Starwood data breach should be alarming to anyone who has stayed at a Starwood property in the last 4 years. Not only are guests at risk for opportunistic phishing attacks, but targeted phishing emails are almost certain, as well as phone scams and potential financial fraud. Unlike previous breaches, this attack also included passport numbers for some individuals who are now at increased risk for identity theft. At this point, however, it's unclear what level of exposure each individual victim has been subject to. Until then, all potential victims should assume the worst and take all necessary precautions to protect themselves from all manner of scams.
Sophos recommends these tips:
Be on alert for spearphishing: Marriott has said that personal details associated with the Starwood Preferred Guests accounts have been compromised, and personal email addresses are vulnerable. This creates the perfect scenario for cybercriminals to actually spearphish consumers because they have this type of detailed information
Be on alert for opportunistic phishing: Marriott has said it will email Starwood Preferred Guests those who may be impacted. Do not click on links in emails or other communication that seem to have come from Marriott or Starwood hotels. It’s possible that criminals will try to take advantage of this by sending malicious tweets or phishing emails that look like they’ve come from the company. Hover over URLs and links to see the address before you click. Look at the email address to see where it is from
Monitor your financial accounts: Reports indicate the attackers may have access to some members’ encrypted credit card information, but it’s not clear as of yet if this information can be decrypted; in general, monitor your credit card for suspicious activity. As a safety precaution, change the password to your online credit card account. If you use the same password for similar financial management websites, immediately change the password on those websites. As a best security practice, always choose a different, strong password for each sensitive account
Change passwords, as a precaution: It’s not clear as of yet if the attackers have access to Starwood Preferred Guest account passwords, but as a safety precaution, consumers can change their password. If this password is also used for any financial accounts, change those immediately. Monitor your Starwood Preferred Guest account for suspicious activity
Don’t Google “Web Watcher”: Marriott is offering victims in the USA, UK and Canada a free, one year subscription to something it calls WebWatcher, which it describes as a service that monitors "internet sites where personal information is shared." Don't Google it. If you Google “WebWatcher” you won't find the monitoring service, you'll find lots of links to spyware of the same name. Don't sign up for that. Do follow the links to country-specific versions of the official breach site. You cannot sign up for monitoring from the main breach page, you have to go to the all-but-identical versions of the page for the US, UK or Canada.
With inputs from Reuters.