About 500 Million Guests Affected By Data Breach At Starwood Hotels, Says Marriot

Following a year of a string of hacks into data vases of large multinational companies, the latest to announce that it has also been hit by a hacking incident is Marriot International chain of hotels. The company revealed on Friday that personal data and information of about 500 million guests that had been stored in the data base of its Starwood Hotels brand’s reservation division since 2014.

Following the revelation, there was an immediate impact on the shares of the company which dropped by almost 6 per cent to about $115 during trading before the end of the day on Friday.

According to the revelation of the company, the hacking incident could have compromised and exposed personal information such as their passport details, phone numbers and email addresses of about 327 million of its guests. And for the rest, more sensitive information such as their credit card information could have been hacked by the infiltrators.

The first hint about the occurrence of the hacking incidents was received by the company following an alert sent by an internal security tool on Sept. 8, said Marriot International.

Following that the company conducted further investigations and learned that incidents of hacking had been going on for a long time.

The incident had already been reported to the relevant law enforcement agencies and is in the process of notifying the concerned regulatory authorities as well, informed the company. The Starwood Hotels chain was acquired by Marriot in 2016.

The guests who have been affected by the data breach would be sent emails starting Friday, said Marriott on its part.

“We are still investigating the situation so we don’t have a list of specific hotels. What we do know is that it only impacted Starwood brands,” Marriott spokesman Jeff Flaherty told the media.

While claiming that the long term financial health of the company would not be affected by the breach, Marriott said it that was too early to make any reasonable estimate about the financial impact of the data hacking incidents. The process of assessment of the coverage is being done by its insurance carriers, it also said.

For hackers, hotels and hotel groups are a lucrative target because of the existence of some sensitive and valuable personal information of customers such as those related to credit cards.

Cyber attacks had targeted the InterContinental Hotels and the Hyatt Hotels last year.

At that point in time, Hyatt had said that hackers gained made unauthorized access payment card information at some of the its locations which hit 41 properties in 11 countries.

(Adapted from CNBC.com)

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