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Marriott claims up to 500 million guests had their records hacked

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Marriott (-5.59%) execs woke up Friday morning, meditated for an hour, and then unleashed the bad news: personal info on up to 500 million guests in its Starwood reservation system may have been exposed in a hack. 

For about 65% of those guests, the compromised personal info could include name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, DOB, and even encrypted credit card numbers.

  • Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson's mea culpa: "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."

If 500 million sounds like a lot to you...

It is—and it's enough to earn Marriott a spot on the podium for the largest data breach ever (in terms of affected individuals).

  • Remember the earth-shattering Equifax hack last year? 148 million people were affected.
  • But the record holder by a long shot is Yahoo, which compromised 3 billion accounts in 2013. 


Starwood is the hotel company Marriott acquired in 2016 for $13.6 billion. And you've probably snagged a continental breakfast in the lobbies of some of its brands: Westin, Aloft, Sheraton, and others. 

By tacking on Starwood, Marriott became the world's largest hotel chain. It has over 6,700 properties in 130 countries and territories.

Next steps, for you and Marriott 

  1. Yesterday, Marriott began sending emails out to affected guests in the Starwood reservation database.
  2. It set up a website and a call center to handle your questions. Plus, it's giving guests the opportunity to enroll in an internet monitoring site free of charge for a year.

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Hotels are the Regina George of hacking targets...so, like, really popular. As a cybersecurity expert tells the NYT, they possess tons of sensitive customer info but don't have the same safeguards as firms in more tightly regulated industries.

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Marriott (+5.97%) gave us more details about a November hack of its Starwood reservation database—one of the largest data breaches ever.

  • The good news: The hotel chain chopped the number of affected customers to an "upper limit" of 383 million, down from 500 million.
  • The bad news that kind of cancels out the good news: Hackers swiped about 5 million unencrypted passport numbers.

That amounts to a "potential foreign-intelligence gold mine," security analysts tell the WSJ. And who might be spearheading that foreign intelligence effort? Don't act too surprised, but the top suspect is China.

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