Marriott says hack was smaller but hit 5.25m passports

Marriott data breach exposes 5 million unencrypted passport numbers

Marriott says hack was smaller but hit 5.25m passports

It was through that investigation that the company found that the initial estimate of those affected was higher than the actual number of customers who had their information exposed.

In addition to passport data, which some theorise could be used by malign actors to track worldwide travellers, approximately 345,000 unexpired payment cards were stored by the company.

While the passport numbers would be considered sensitive personal information that should not be made public, the numbers and names of guests alone would not be enough for a criminal to create a forged passport. The company recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it.

There were also 8.6 million payment cards that were compromised in the hack, though all of the numbers were encrypted and again there was no evidence that the encryption key was accessed.

When the breach was first announced, Marriott had stated that there was unauthorized access to the Starwood reservation database since 2014 and that these third-parties had access to data such as passport numbers, Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) account details, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.

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Marriott now believes that approximately 5.25 million unencrypted passport numbers were included in the information accessed by an unauthorized third party. 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.

Marriott now believes that the number of potentially involved guests is lower than the 500 million the company had originally estimated. They go on to say that there is no evidence that the third-parties had access to the key to decrypt these payment cards. That doesn't mean all those 383 million guests are affected, Marriott said, but the hotel giant still can't yet give a more precise number of customers whose data was stolen.

Marriott said its call center reps will soon be able to help customers figure out if their passport number was exposed. The company also found that in some cases, the same customer had more than one record within the database.

The reason the breach appears to have been limited to Starwood is that its guest database ran separately from the rest of the Marriott network.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month US officials believed the Marriott hack was part of an espionage effort directed by Beijing that has targeted health insurers and the US civil service employment database.

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