Marriott Releases Updates on Starwood Hack

Nuix's latest Black Report offers insights straight from the mouths of hackers and penetration testers (Image xijian / iStockPhoto)
Photo by xijian/iStockPhoto

Marriott International has released an update on a security breach that exposed the personal information of a number of guests in its Starwood reservations database, including passport numbers and credit card numbers. The company announced the incident back in November. The Starwood reservations database includes the Starwood brands 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 (Sheraton Vacation Club, Westin Vacation Club, The Luxury Collection Residence Club, St. Regis Residence Club, and Vistana) are also included. 

According to the latest update from Marriott following a forensic investigation, the total number of guest records involved in this incident is less than the initial disclosure. Also, the number of payment cards and passport numbers involved is a relatively small percentage of the overall total records involved, the company claims. 

In its initial report, the company said that it believed the incident involved information about up to approximately 500 million guests who made a reservation at a Starwood property on or before September 10, 2018, although at that point the company had not completed the analytics work to identify duplicative information. Now, Marriott says that the number of potentially involved guests is lower than the 500 million the company had originally estimated. Marriott says it has identified approximately 383 million records as the upper limit for the total number of guest records that were involved in the incident. This does not, however, mean that information about 383 million unique guests was involved, as in many instances, there appear to be multiple records for the same guest. The company says it has concluded with a fair degree of certainty that information for fewer than 383 million unique guests was involved, although the company is not able to quantify that lower number because of the nature of the data in the database.

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In terms of passports, Marriott says it now believes that approximately 5.25 million unencrypted passport numbers were included in the information accessed by an unauthorized third party. The information accessed also includes approximately 20.3 million encrypted passport numbers. There is no evidence that the unauthorized third party accessed the master encryption key needed to decrypt the encrypted passport numbers, according to Marriott.

Marriott is putting in place a mechanism to enable its designated call center representatives to refer guests to the appropriate resources to enable a look up of individual passport numbers to see if they were included in this set of unencrypted passport numbers. Marriott will update its designated website for this incident (https://info.starwoodhotels.com) when it has this capability in place. The website lists phone numbers to reach the company’s dedicated call center and includes information about the process to be followed if guests believe that they have experienced fraud as a result of their passport numbers being involved in this incident.

In terms of payment cards, Marriott says it now believes that approximately 8.6 million encrypted payment cards were involved in the incident. Of that number, approximately 354,000 payment cards were unexpired as of September 2018. There is no evidence that the unauthorized third party accessed either of the components needed to decrypt the encrypted payment card numbers.

While the payment card field in the data involved was encrypted, Marriott is undertaking additional analysis to see if payment card data was inadvertently entered into other fields and was therefore not encrypted. Marriott believes that there may be a small number (fewer than 2,000) of 15-digit and 16-digit numbers in other fields in the data involved that might be unencrypted payment card numbers. The company is continuing to analyze these numbers to better understand if they are payment card numbers and, if they are payment card numbers, the process it will put in place to assist guests. Further updates will be made to the dedicated website: https://info.starwoodhotels.com.

Guests who have questions related to their payment cards should visit https://info.starwoodhotels.com for more information, including toll-free phone numbers to reach the company’s dedicated call center.

Finally, Marriott says that it has completed the phase out of the operation of the Starwood reservations database, effective the end of 2018. With the completion of the reservation systems conversion undertaken as part of the company’s post-merger integration work, all reservations are now running through the Marriott system.

Support Services for Guests

Marriott reports that it continues to offer the following services to help guests monitor and protect their information:

Dedicated Website and Call Center

Marriott has established a dedicated website (https://info.starwoodhotels.com) and call center to answer questions guests may have about this incident. The frequently asked questions on the site have been updated and may be further supplemented from time to time. The call center is open seven days a week and is available in multiple languages.

Free Web Monitoring

Guests from countries and regions listed on the site have the opportunity to enroll in web monitoring services free of charge for one year. .

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