China likely behind Marriott Hotel hacking scandal

China, Chinese hackers, Marriott

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Investigators have found clues to suggest China is behind the massive hacking scandal over the Marriott Hotel system database that was discovered late November.

According to Reuters, private investigators have found tools and evidence of procedures used previously in other operations by Chinese state-sponsored hackers. This implies a political motive behind the hacks, rather than a financial one, which many initially assumed.

Late last month, it was revealed one of the biggest data breaches ever occurred when personal data on 500 million guests between 2014 and 2018 was stolen from the Marriott Hotel system database.

Names, birth dates, home and email addresses, passport numbers and scrambled credit card data were all compromised, leaving Marriott customers, and those of its subdivisions including Sheraton and W Hotels, vulnerable to a number of possible abuses.

Stolen data also included reservations for future hotel stays, allowing hackers to know when specific people were not home or where they were going to be.

Reuters reports former senior FBI official Robert Anderson said the hacks fit a pattern with how Chinese intelligence services execute operations, and appear similar to those the state was carrying out in 2014. He implied that the Chinese government could have been logging which politicians were meeting secretly in which locations around the world.

Intrusions into U.S. government databases holding sensitive information of over 22 million federal employees, contractors, and their friends and family were discovered in 2014 and attributed to Chinese state-sponsored hackers. The U.S. Office of Personnel suggested it was highly likely every file associated with a security clearance since 2000 had been accessed.

China is a world leader in cyber espionage, routinely carrying out attacks on online servers and stealing sensitive data from groups it deems threatening to the rise of China and the stability of the Communist regime.

Much like with the country’s physical military, civilians and even world-class public institutions are implicated in its cyberwarfare attacks, the targets of which range from foreign state subdivisions to Tibetan communities abroad.

Prior to the nine-in-one elections in Taiwan, cyber-attacks of Chinese origin on Taiwanese servers, including the DPP website which was compromised in July, increased exponentially. Tsai Ing-wen confirmed in a speech on Oct. 10 that there was irrefutable evidence China was attempting to maliciously damage security systems and obtain technical intelligence to jeopardize the elections.

A U.S. Department of Justice official said the amount of years hackers were working quietly within the Marriott network is a key piece of evidence that points to a state-sponsored attack. Criminals do not usually have the time or patience to carry out such long-term operations.

The FBI refused to release an official statement regarding evidence linking China but said it was still investigating the attack.