The incident could be one of the largest breaches of consumer data ever. Source: TechCrunch

Marriott International confirmed on Friday that the data of nearly 500 million guests may have been compromised following a breach of its Starwood reservation database. The incident could be one of the largest breaches of consumer data ever. Marriott, which is also the largest hotel chain in the world, said that it got the first alert in September. The company then started investigating the matter and soon found out that there had been unauthorized access to the database since 2014. The company also found that the breach affected its Starwood reservation database.

Although the investigation is still ongoing, the preliminary report indicates that the data of nearly 500 million guests may have been affected. Hackers were able to access a wide range of information including the names of guests, email addresses, phone numbers, and even passport numbers. Account information on the Starwood reservation system was also acquired including things like time of arrival and departure, reservation dates, and dates of birth. The hotel chain added that there could be a significant number of clients who may have had their credit card information stolen as a result of the breach. Marriot did, however, say that the breach had been contained and the company is cooperating with authorities to find the people responsible.

The hotel chain has set up a website for customers to raise any concern they may have. Source: Thrillist

Stolen personal data acquired through these kinds of breaches can often make its way into the black market. The data can be purchased by malicious people and is then used to execute additional attacks on the individuals affected by the first hack. Email phishing schemes and identity thefts are some of the common cases reported. Marriott has set up a website for customers who are afraid that their information may have been compromised to raise any concern they have. The hotel chain is also notifying all the affected clients via email.

There hasn’t been any fall out so far with regards to the breach. However, the circumstances that led to the hack will soon come to light and things may start getting heated after that. Some lawyers have started investigating the matter with the hope of finding exactly what happened. It won’t be a surprise if the hotel chain is sued once the details of the breach start to become clear. The breach is also turning out to be one of the biggest we have seen in history. Although so far Marriot is saying that over 500 million people may have been affected, as more investigations go on, this number could easily rise.

The hotel chain is confident the breach won’t hurt its business. Source: USA Today

Such high profile breaches of consumer data are not common but they have happened before. For example, hackers reportedly accessed over three billion Yahoo accounts in one of the biggest data breaches ever reported. Earlier this year, MyFitnessPal, a workout and fitness app confirmed that hackers had accessed over 150 million accounts and stolen private information. It’s not clear how Marriot will be containing this moving forward but people are demanding answers. The hotel chain has also filed details of the breach with the Securities Exchange Commission. The company said that it doesn’t expect the breach to hurt its business.