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Security & privacy

You won’t believe who’s responsible for the Marriott hotel chain hack

Were you affected by the recent Marriott-Starwood hotel chain cyberattack? This massive data breach has compromised the information of around 500 million guests, including personal and credit card details.

The troubling part? Marriott discovered during its investigation that the breach has been going on since 2014. If you made a reservation on one of these hotels, we hope you’ve taken the necessary steps to protect your accounts. Click here to learn how.

But who was responsible for the attack? Was it a financially motivated hack? Or is it a part of a plan that is much more sinister? Read on and find out.

Are Chinese spies responsible for the Marriott hack?

The Marriott-Starwood hotel chain cyberattack was a part of a Chinese intelligence-gathering effort, according to a report from The New York Times, citing two people briefed on the investigation.

The sources said that the hackers were working on behalf of China’s Ministry of State Security, the country’s civilian spy agency and the agency could be involved in other high-profile attacks in the past.

Aside from the Marriott hack, the Chinese spying campaign may also be responsible for similar hacks on American institutions like the massive data breaches of the health insurance company Anthem and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), also in 2014.

How come? Private investigators looking into the Marriott data breach said that they found hacking tools, techniques and procedures similar to the ones used in these suspected Chinese-led attacks.

The evidence suggests that these campaigns are not financial in nature, rather, they are all part of a Chinese state-led espionage effort to amass information from the United States,

Note: The Anthem hack affected 80 million people or more. The leaked information includes names, dates of birth, member ID and Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and employment information.

The OPM attack stole the information of 5.6 million federal employees including biometric data, Social Security numbers, addresses and lists of relatives. 

While these clues point position China as the lead suspect in these hacking incidents, nothing is conclusive yet. The same sources also warned that it is possible that other groups who have access to same hacking tools may be responsible for the Marriott-Starwood hotel chain data breach.

It was also stated that pinpointing the real perpetrators can be tricky since evidence also showed that that multiple hacking groups may have been accessing Starwood’s computer networks since 2014.

Click here to read The New York Times report.

US-China trade relations under strain

This new development certainly puts the future of US-China trade relations in an even shakier ground.

Remember, a few weeks earlier, Meng Wanzhou, a top executive of the Chinese tech company Huawei, was arrested in Canada at the behest of U.S. authorities for allegedly violating trade sanctions on Iran.

However, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies any involvement in the Marriott data breach.

“China firmly opposes all forms of cyberattack and cracks down on it in accordance with the law,” the agency’s spokesperson Geng Shuang told The New York Times. “If offered evidence, the relevant Chinese departments will carry out investigations according to the law.”

U.S. senators, on the other hand, are calling on Congress to pass data security and privacy laws that will protect sensitive consumer information and make companies follow strong data security standards.

With cyberattacks coming from every direction, politically motivated or otherwise, it’s about time such consumer protection safeguards are put in effect, don’t you think?

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