Last week, the Marriott hotel group announced that it was the victim of what turned out to be the second largest privacy violation ever. Few details have been disclosed as to who could be responsible for stealing data from 500 million guest records, but Reuters reports investigators believe espionage is involved in China.
According to Reuters, an independent investigative team investigating the infringement, Marriott has found "hacking tools, methods, and procedures" associated with hacking groups working for Chinese intelligence agencies. From the Report:
This suggests that Chinese hackers have been behind a campaign designed to gather information to be used in Beijing's espionage efforts, and not for financial reasons.
While China has emerged as the prime suspect in the case, the sources warned that it's possible someone else was behind the hack because other parties were able to access the same hacking tools, some of which had been put online before.
Part of the reason the collection of information was probably the hacker's motive is that they have been in the Starwood reservation system of Marriott for so long. The system was infiltrated for the first time in 2014, and they have been waiting to collect millions of names, passport numbers, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, e-mail addresses and, in some cases, credit card information. Michael Sussmann, former chief computer crime specialist at the Department of Justice, told Reuters, "Patience is a virtue for spies but not for criminals trying to steal credit card numbers."
When intelligence officers afford the time to maximize their turn, they hit the jackpot. Marriott bought high-end hotelier Starwood in 2016 and integrated its booking system while overcoming the unknown cybersecurity issues.
But the sources told Reuters it was also difficult to blame China's feet as several hacking groups were suspected The Starwood system has been around since 2014. In addition, assigning cyber attacks is generally difficult.
Asked about the allegations at a press conference in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, "If the relevant side has evidence, they can prove it to the Chinese side, and the relevant authorities will investigate in accordance with the law , "
Another reason for China's suspicion is that the time of the first violation in 2014 was exactly the time, according to the US intelligence agencies The country's employees began to move in the systems of the Personnel Management Office. This incident ultimately led to the attackers taking in sensitive data about millions of OPM employees. Theoretically, a cross-reference of this type of information with hotel and travel records could provide insight.
Marriott did not respond to a request for comments sent by Gizmodo. A spokesman for the company told Reuters, "We have nothing to share."
Earlier this year, Marriott took the extraordinary step of dismissing a social media manager just for praising a tweet from someone who praised the company for recognizing Tibet, "As a country and not as a part of China in one online survey. " In addition, Marriott officially apologized. It is safe to say that the hotel chain is in no hurry to bring charges against China against China.
This report is also difficult for relations between the US and China, as both governments are engaged in intense trade negotiations that has sent financial markets into chaos. In addition to the Marriott news, it was reported Thursday that Huawei's Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, had been arrested on behalf of the United States in Canada on undisclosed charges and possibly handed over to a place of jurisdiction in New York. Huawei is the largest private enterprise in China's central planned economy, and Meng is the daughter of the company founder. The case has already been raised by the Chinese authorities.