Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Marriott says hack affected guests

SHARES DECLINE:A probe showed that most of about 500 million people who were affected had their names, addresses, passport numbers and birth dates exposed

AFP, NEW YORK

A carry-on bag is rolled across a mat at a Marriott International Inc hotel in Chicago on Friday.

Photo: Bloomberg

As many as 500 million guests at Marriott International Inc hotels might have been affected by a hack that in many cases pilfered passport numbers, birthdates or other identifying data dating back to 2014, the company said on Friday.

The hack is among the largest ever disclosed, prompting a big drop in Marriott shares and investigations in at least three US states, including New York, where New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood said on Twitter that “New Yorkers deserve to know that their personal information will be protected.”

Marriott said it was alerted on Sept. 8 that there had been an attempt to hack their reservation database in the US.

A subsequent probe on Nov. 19 said “that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014,” which compromised personal and financial information.

Hotel brands in the Starwood network include Sheraton, Westin, Four Points and W Hotels. Marriott completed a US$13.6 billion acquisition of Starwood in 2016.

“We deeply regret this incident happened,” Marriott chief executive officer Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

“We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves,” the statement said.

The investigation determined that for about 327 million guests, the hacked information included items such as names, addresses, passport numbers and dates of birth.

Marriott also could not rule out that hackers were also able to access some encrypted credit card information.

For the other guests, the information was limited to names and sometimes other data such as mailing and e-mail addresses, or other information, the company said.

Marriott said it would reach out to those affected and was offering support including free, one-year enrollment in WebWatcher, a service that monitors Internet sites where personal data is shared.

Marriott also is working with law enforcement and security experts to tighten security on its system.

Besides New York, prosecutors in Pennsylvania and Maryland were probing the incident. Federal officials also were monitoring the episode.

It is the latest case among the massive breaches that have compromised personal data and that can cause years of headaches for those affected, who often face serious legal and financial repercussions.

The largest known hack hit about 3 billion Yahoo accounts in 2013 and 2014.

Marriott said it was “premature” to estimate the financial hit from the breach and that it carried cyberinsurance that could take care of some of the costs.

“The company does not believe this incident will impact its long-term financial health,” Marriott said in a securities filing.

Marriott likely faces a near-term hit to its reputation from the incident, although it is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the breach has been confined to the Starwood properties and not to the Marriott brand itself, Goldman Sachs Group Inc said in a note.

“Experiences from retailers would suggest that traffic and share loss do occur, but tend to be short-lived, especially if consumers believe they are safer after the breach has occurred,” Goldman Sachs said.

Shares of Marriott closed down 5.6 percent at US$115.03.

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