Clues in Marriott International hack implicate China

WASHINGTON: Marriott said last week that a hack that began four years ago had exposed the records of up to 500 million customers in its Starwood hotels reservation system. Private investigators looking into the breach have found hacking tools, techniques and procedures previously used in attacks attributed to Chinese hackers, said three sources who were not authorised to discuss the company’s private probe into the attack.
That suggests that Chinese hackers may have been behind a campaign designed to collect information for use in Beijing’s espionage efforts and not for financial gain, two of the sources said.
While China has emerged as the lead suspect in the case, the sources cautioned it was possible somebody else was behind the hack because other parties had access to the same hacking tools, some of which have previously been posted online.
Identifying the culprit is further complicated by the fact that investigators suspect multiple hacking groups may have simultaneously been inside Starwood’s computer networks since 2014, said one of the sources. Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang declined to comment directly on the issue, but said China strongly opposed any form of hacking.
“If the relevant side has any evidence, they can provide it to the Chinese side, and relevant authorities will investigate in accordance with the law,” he told a daily news briefing. “But we resolutely oppose gratuitous accusations when it comes to Internet security,” he added.
If investigators confirm that China was behind the attack, that could complicate already tense relations between Washington and Beijing, amid an ongoing tariff dispute and US accusations of Chinese espionage and the theft of trade secrets.
Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim declined to comment, saying “We’ve got nothing to share,” when asked about involvement of Chinese hackers. Marriott disclosed the hack on Friday, prompting US and UK regulators to quickly launch probes into the case. Compromised customer data included names, passport numbers, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates and email addresses. A small percentage of accounts included scrambled payment card data, said Kim. — Reuters