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Marriott reveals breach that revealed data of up to 5.2 million customers


Marriott international Inc.

investigation into a data breach that revealed up to 5.2 million customer personal information, at least the third cyber incident for the hotel giant in the past 18 months.

The company said on Tuesday in a statement on its site that certain names, addresses, birthdays, emails, phone numbers and loyalty program numbers for hotel chain and partner airline customers could be compromised. He added that he currently had no reason to believe that more sensitive information such as passwords, passport information or driver’s license numbers was affected.

The news comes at a devastating time for Marriott and the wider tourism industry. The Bethesda, Maryland-based company, the world’s largest hotel company, laid off thousands of workers in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

It is unclear how the breach revealed on Tuesday occurred. The data was accessed using the login credentials of two employees of a franchised hotel in Russia, spokesman Brendan McManus said in an email. He did not say whether the employees were suspected of criminal activity or whether their accounts were compromised.

Our investigation is ongoing and it is too premature to comment on this, said McManus.

Marriott said in the statement on its website that it had noticed an unusual amount of customer data accessed via an internal application used to track customer check-in dates, birthday parties and towel preferences. While company officials say they first noticed the increase in activity in late February, they believe it started in mid-January.

The infraction reported by Marriott on Tuesday is at least its third in the past 18 months. In a letter to the California Attorney General in October, the hotel chain said unknown attackers had access to at least 1,552 names, addresses and social security numbers of company employees through a former salesperson who handled official documents such as court orders and subpoenas.

Mr. McManus declined to comment on this violation.

A year earlier, the company revealed a massive hack into the booking database for its Starwood properties, which exposed more than 300 million customer data, including sensitive information like passport numbers, payment cards, and travel details. Marriott has since faced a class action lawsuit for the breach, said to be one of the largest in history.

The governments of Europe and the United States have deployed new regulations in recent years to build guardrails that protect against such privacy breaches. The UK Office of the Information Commissioners fined Marriott $ 124 million last year in response to the Starwood hack, a penalty that Marriott said when it challenged it. An agency spokesperson said Tuesday that the regulatory process is underway.

The UK watchdog is aware of the breach announced by Marriott on Tuesday and is in contact with company officials, the spokesman added.

If a violation is likely to pose a high risk to the rights and freedoms of peoples, Marriott should notify customers as soon as possible, so that they can take whatever steps are necessary to protect themselves, the spokesperson said.

Most regulators understand that even companies as large as Marriott cannot repel every cyber attack, said Richard Lawson, partner at Gardner Brewer Martinez-Monfort PA.

But when you encounter multiple violations, you will automatically face scrutiny from regulatory authorities, said Lawson, former director of the consumer protection division of the Florida Attorney Generals Office. The idea being, of course, that this company was on notice, this company had already had this problem before and had already received a visit from us. And here we are again.

McManus reiterated that Marriott is committed to improving its privacy protections. He added that the company is working with its insurers to assess the costs of the incident and does not expect them to be significant.

Marriotts’ letter to affected customers directed them to a dedicated website and call center for more information and offered a one-year subscription to a data monitoring service to protect themselves from theft. identity. He also warned customers to set up two-factor authentication on their reward accounts and to be on the lookout for Marriott-related phishing scams.

James Rundle and Catherine Stupp contributed to this article.

Write to David Uberti at [email protected]

Copyright 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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