In December, the hospitality company giant Marriott International reported a data breach on its Starwood Room Reservation Network, exposing personal data of over 500 million customers. According to Marriott International, individuals’ passport numbers, mailing addresses, and other personal information were stolen by the hackers. The initial breach, which occured in 2014, was not detected by Starwood. Even during its acquisition by Marriott in 2016, the breach of security was neglected, as experts say it is impossible for Marriott to have missed this security flaw (source).
Not only is this is one of the worst recorded cases of its type, Marriott’s response to this scandal was outright shocking, claiming that it “has not been able to rule out” that credit card information had been exposed (source). According to Forbes, this is a classic example of older and aged corporations taking digital security lightly, risking the livelihoods of their customers.
The information above means that if you had stayed in a Starwood-Marriott hotel in the past 4 years, it is almost guaranteed that your data is in the wrong hands. Marriott has prepared a list of steps that you should take to protect your data, but it is difficult to identify if you are actually in danger. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer suggested that Marriott pay the cost of 110 dollars for each of their former customers who were requesting new passports in response to this issue. Thankfully the company agreed to pay the fees for any individuals who were encountering issues caused by the breach.
Anybody in the world may have your personal information, and this is not a topic to be taken lightly. Make sure to follow the steps here if you have used any of Marriott’s Starwood hotels, including any Marriott and Starwood franchises such as Sheraton, St. Regis, and Westin.