Today Marriott announced that it had experienced a data security breach involving the Starwood guest reservation database dating back to 2014.
Affected Starwood brands include: W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, Westin Hotels & Resorts, Element Hotels, Aloft Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Tribute Portfolio, Le Meridien Hotels & Resorts, Four Points by Sheraton and Design Hotels. Starwood branded timeshare properties are also included.
On September 8, 2018, Marriott received an alert from an internal security tool regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database in the United States. Marriott quickly brought in security experts to help determine what occurred. Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network dating back to 2014. The company recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it. On Nov. 19, 2018, Marriott was able to decrypt the information and determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database.
“We deeply regret this incident happened,” said Arne Sorenson, Marriott’s president and CEO in press materials. “We fell short of what our guests deserve and what we expect of ourselves. We are doing everything we can to support our guests, and using lessons learned to be better moving forward.
The company has not finished identifying duplicate information in the database, but believes it contains information on up to approximately 500 million guests who made a reservation at a Starwood property. For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, e-mail address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences. For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128). There are two components needed to decrypt the payment card numbers, and at this point, Marriott has not been able to rule out the possibility that both were taken. For the remaining guests, the information was limited to name and sometimes other data such as mailing address, e-mail address, or other information.
“We are working hard to ensure our guests have answers to questions about their personal information, with a dedicated website and call center. We will also continue to support the efforts of law enforcement and to work with leading security experts to improve. Finally, we are devoting the resources necessary to phase out Starwood systems and accelerate the ongoing security enhancements to our network,” added Sorenson in press materials.
Marriott has reported this incident to law enforcement and continues to support their investigation. The company has already begun notifying regulatory authorities.
“The hospitality sector has been hit hard this year with breaches at such hotels as the Prince, Radisson, and Intercontinental to name a few,” says Ryan Wilk, v.p. of customer success for NuData Security, a Mastercard company in press materials. “Unfortunately, this breach was going on since 2014, which means that cyber hackers secured a treasure trove of personal information. This news needs to remind merchants and other companies transacting online that their systems are never entirely safe from breaches; these can happen at any time, and companies need to have their post-breach process ready. This plan includes the implementation of a stronger verification framework so they can still correctly authenticate their good users despite potentially stolen credentials. This sort of data exposure is why so many organizations—from the hospitality sector through to eCommerce companies, financial institutions and major retailers—are layering in advanced security solutions, such as passive biometrics and behavioral analytics that identify customers by their online behavior thus mitigating pos-breach damage as hackers are not able to impersonate individual behavior.”
Marriott has taken the following steps to help guests monitor and protect their information:
Dedicated Website and Call Center
Marriott has established a dedicated website (info.starwoodhotels.com) and call center to answer questions you may have about this incident. The frequently-asked questions on info.starwoodhotels.com may be supplemented from time to time. The call center is open seven days a week and is available in multiple languages. Call volume may be high, and we appreciate your patience.
Marriott will begin sending e-mails on a rolling basis starting today, Nov. 30, 2018, to affected guests whose e-mail addresses are in the Starwood guest reservation database.
Free WebWatcher Enrollment
Marriott is providing guests the opportunity to enroll in WebWatcher free of charge for one year. WebWatcher monitors internet sites where personal information is shared and generates an alert to the consumer if evidence of the consumer’s personal information is found. Due to regulatory and other reasons, WebWatcher or similar products are not available in all countries. Guests from the United States who activate WebWatcher will also be provided fraud consultation services and reimbursement coverage for free. To activate WebWatcher, go to info.starwoodhotels.com and click on your country, if listed, for enrollment.
Marriott is furnishing a Form 8-K with the SEC attaching a copy of this press release and presenting certain other information with respect to the incident.
For more information, visit info.starwood.com.