Cyber Attack on Starwood Marriott linked to Chinese Ministry of State Security

While, all these days we have seen companies coming under cyber attack and law enforcement agencies blaming US adversaries like Russia, North Korea, and Iran for the incidents. But now, renowned news resource in the United States- The New York Times claims that it has evidence that the Chinese Ministry of State Security was behind the cyber attack on Starwood Marriott.

To all those who do not know on the latest, here’s a gist of it. In late November, Marriott hotel’s business subsidiary Starwood made an official announcement that their IT staffs have identified a hacked in its database 2 months ago and the hackers have managed to access data of over 500 million guests from the past four years.

The stolen info includes emails, names, addresses, passport numbers, payment card info and some other critical details.

A source from the New York Times said that two hackers who worked for Chinese intelligence and military services were behind the Marriott Cyber Attack. And the attack was launched to gather data for an espionage campaign.

Jesse Varsalone, an associate professor of computer security and networks working for the Maryland University of College has decoded the intelligence-driven cyber attack activity as follows- Suppose the 45th US president is in town and has checked into a hotel belong to Marriot. Then the hackers would then check for the names of other political dignitaries or associates on President’s itinerary who have checked in at that time in the same city or other. Then they would prepare a roster schedule and will try to link them to the travel schedules of the president. Once a person of interest is discovered, then one could easily try to extrapolate the whereabouts of the people, co-workers, and associates who travel in the same circle and might blackmail, threaten, kidnap or influence those minds for doing something against their wish.

Though the leaked info of those visiting hotels on travel might not be termed as classified material, it can prove valuable if the right nodes are struck. And this can only be decoded by state-funded actors or bad actors for nefarious purposes.

Meanwhile, the news is out that Donald Trump is in a plan to release Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in order to build a cordial relationship with China- especially after the recent trade war.

Security analysts say that such retaliation filled attacks from China will increase in future and might even turn intense if Trump asserts his stand on the trade ban on China.

Naveen Goud
Naveen Goud is a writer at Cybersecurity Insiders covering topics such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Startups, Cyber Attacks, Cloud Security and Mobile Security

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