Clues in Marriott hack implicate China

Marco Green
December 10, 2018

"Beijing opposes any groundless allegations and calls for evidence to be provided in relation to the Chinese government's alleged involvement in the massive data breach at the Marriott International hotel group", a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. CNBC reports that clues left behind by the hackers suggest they were employed by Chinese government intelligence.

The data stolen in the hack, which was first detected September 8, included names, passport numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and email addresses. For approximately 327M of these guests, the info includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number.

Private investigators hired by the company have discovered signs similar to previous hacks blamed on Chinese intelligence. The report also noted that the campaign may have been created to collect information for use in Beijing's espionage efforts, not for financial gain.

The company did not respond to a request for comment regarding how many Canadians have, or are expected to, receive the emails.

Another reason for suspicion of China is that the timing of the initial breach in 2014 was right around the time, according to U.S. intelligence, that the country's operatives began poking around in the systems of the Office of Personnel Management.

The hotel group disclosed the attack last week. Marriott acquired the Starwood hotel network in 2016, paying $13.6 billion in a deal that included the Sheraton, Westin, W Hotels, and several others that now comprise the largest hotel network in the world. Few details have been made public on who might be responsible for the theft of data from 500 million guest records, but Reuters reports that investigators believe espionage by China is involved.

This is a situation where a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem than giving the right service in the first place. "It's all very long-range", said Anderson, who was not involved in investigating the Marriott case and is now a principal with Chertoff Group.

Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives could not immediately be reached for comment on the evidence linking the attack to China.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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