Marriott data breach exposes personal data of 5.2 million guests

Marriott hotel sign

Marriott has informed 5.2 million guests that their personal details were inappropriately accessed in a possible data breach.


How enterprises are embracing cyber security challenges

Enterprises across Europe, the Middle East and Africa are undergoing a significant transformation


Contacts details, loyalty account information, company, gender, birthday, partnerships and affiliations and room preferences were among guests’ details accessed between mid-January and February 2020.

Marriott said this unexpected amount of information was accessed using the login credential of two employees with an application built to provide guest services.

When the firm learned of this activity, the login credentials were disabled, and the company began an investigation, before raising the level of monitoring and arranging resources to inform and assist guests.

“Although our investigation is ongoing, we currently have no reason to believe that the information involved included Marriott Bonvoy account passwords or PINs, payment card information, passport information, national IDs, or driver’s license numbers,” Marriott said.

“If you are uncertain whether your information was involved in the incident, we have set up a self-service online portal for guests to be able to determine whether their information was involved and, if so, what categories of information were involved.”

This is the second major data breach involving the hotel chain after the company was fined £99 million for an incident involving 339 million guests.

Marriott revealed in November 2018 that an unknown third-party had gained access to its Starwood guest reservation system by exploiting an unpatched vulnerability from 2014.

Although the number of guests affected by this second data breach represents a fraction of those hit by the 2018 breach, the fact that Marriott is admitting to the second breach in a short space of time should come as a concern.

It’s unclear where the users affected were based, and whether any UK-based guests were affected by the breach. Should UK citizens have been affected, it’s likely the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) will take a tough stance on the hotel chain, having already issued one massive notice to fine under GDPR rules only last year.

Marriott has said it’s providing guests involved with information about steps they can take, including enrolling into an online information monitoring service provided by IdentityWorks. The firm has also set up a dedicated website and call centre.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.