Marriott Breach Impacts Millions3 Min Well Spent

Marriott International’s centralized online reservation network for Starwood branded hotels recently suffered a massive breach.  News outlets are indicating that the information leak stretches as far back as 2014 and was not capped until late November 2018.  Estimates currently indicate that nearly half of a billion customer’s names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, and Starwood Preferred Guest account information had been compromised. Additionally, some credit card numbers and expiration dates had also been revealed along with the encryption software necessary to decode those numbers.

It remains unclear how the breach occurred, but an internal cybersecurity assessment alerted Marriott staff of the situation sometime in September of 2018. In addition to Starwood Hotels, other affected brands included Westin, Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Méridien, Aloft, Element, Tribute Portfolio, and Design Hotels.

This latest attack comes as no shock to many IT industry insiders given last year’s massive breaches at Yahoo and Equifax. The long-term effects and root cause of this attack will not be known for quite some time.  It is recommended that you execute the following strategy if you suspect you or your company has been affected by the Marriott breach:

1) Change all passwords potentially associated to all Marriott accounts.

Currently, 21% of people are currently using a password that is at least 10 years old, and nearly 50% of people are using a password that is at least five years old. For the people in the first category, that means their password is older than the first generation of iPad.  Passwords can present an even greater threat is the same password is used across multiple access points. If your Marriott password was shared with another site, it is highly recommended that you change both passwords. Users should change passwords, on average, between every 30 and 180 days to ensure maximum security of the data being protected. Passwords should utilize a random mixture of upper/lower case letters, numbers and symbols.  If your devices allow it, we recommend you establish two-factor authentication combined with a password management tool.

2) Employ an appropriate network security solution

There are a variety of providers that can meet your business’ cybersecurity needs. Ostensibly, a high-profile business responsible for managing large data-sets of sensitive customer information will employ a dedicated staff or a Managed Services Security Provider (MSSP). However, smaller or medium-sized businesses can be very well served by a Managed Serviced Provider (MSP).  Implementing an end-to-end layered security solution that includes Unified Threat Management (UTM) to identify, prevent and resolve potential threats before they can affect productivity, efficiency and security is critical.

3) Implement a Backup & Disaster Recovery Plan

It may not have happened to Marriott but consider if the user data affected had been encrypted or deleted with malicious intent to collect a ransom. Those types of attacks are on the rise and given that Marriott’s central reservation system is dependent on a decentralized password used by multiple locations around the world, the data collected and used is perpetually at an increased risk.

The Small Business Administration estimates that 45% of businesses that suffer a data loss never recover.  A managed backup and disaster recovery plan, established by a reputable MSP, provides small and medium business owners significant protection. The threat is projected to increase, and now is the optimal time to evaluate your BDR needs.

Today’s increasingly hostile cyber environment serves as a strong reminder that network, system and data security can no longer be trusted in an unsecure environment.  Not sure if you are a victim of this latest attack, or concerned about what may come next? If you want to know more about how a Managed Serviced Provider can prepare your business? Give us a call at (855) 448-4897 or fill out our contact form, and we will be in contact with you shortly.