A company that manages some of the biggest name brand hotel franchises across the U.S., including Hilton, Westin, Marriott and Sheraton, has apparently been dealing with a potential data breach where thousands of guests’ credit card data was stolen over a period of at least nine months.
White Lodging, a Merrillville, Indiana-based hospitality management company, manages 168 hotels in 21 states and confirmed it was investigating a data breach. After banks looked into a string of card fraud incidents that began on March 23rd, 2013 through the end of the year, a pattern was noted: All the cards were used at Marriott hotels in L.A., Louisville, Chicago, Austin, Denver and Tampa.
The breach appears to have affected only the hotel systems managed by White Lodging, including mostly restaurants and gift shops within their properties. Most of the hotel franchises use the hotel’s property management systems to manage guests’ comings and goings and were not affected by the breach.
Brian Krebs, who originally reported the incident, emailed White Lodging, which confirmed to being in the process of investigating the breach. Marriott, one of the hotels with franchises managed by White Lodging also issued a statement in response, saying:
“[White Lodging is] in the midst of the investigation and [is] in close contact with the banks and credit cards companies. We are working closely with the franchisee as they investigate the matter. Because the suspected breach did not impact any systems that Marriott owns or controls, we do not have additional information to provide. “
The statement concluded that they would continue to monitor the situation and keep their customers informed.
This is the last in a long string of similar breaches at major consumer businesses. The common thread throughout many of the breaches (Target, Neiman Marcus, Michaels) seems to be malicious tampering of the stores’ POS systems. In most of these instances, malware was installed to scrape and steal unencrypted data off of customers’ credit cards. The spate of major, expensive breaches have prompted businesses of any size to take a second look at the security of their devices. The incidents have also created a push for better security of credit and debit cards, including an upgrade to the smart-chip models already popular in Europe and Japan.
Read more about the incident here.
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