Categories
Business Travel Travel News

What You Need To Know About Marriott’s Starwood Breach

Marriott announced Friday that their reservation database for Starwood hotels has been breached by hackers, leaving almost 500 million user’s personal information exposed. Learn what happened in Marriott’s Starwood breach, how to determine if your information has been compromised and other important next steps.

The Marriott’s Starwood data breach

  • Hackers illegally accessed Marriott’s Starwood Hotels reservation database. Marriott purchased the Starwood hotel brand in 2016, though it appears this breach has been taking place since 2014. Only Starwood brand information has been compromised.
  • An internal security tool detected the breach on September 8. Upon further investigation, they discovered the length of time the attack has taken place.
  • Starwood hotels include : Westin, Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, Four Points by Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Le Meridien, Tribute Portfolio, Design Hotels, Four Points, Aloft, Element.
  • It is the second biggest corporate data breach in history. The first involving Yahoo last year, with over 3 billion accounts being compromised.

What information has been exposed

  • For 327 million people, the information breached includes names, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers and date of birth. It also includes trip arrival and departure information.
  • For some, credit card information and card expiration dates were compromised. There was encryption on this information, though Marriott is unsure if that encryption could have been breached as well.
  • This leaves an estimated 500 million people vulnerable to having their identities stolen. It can then later be used to open bank accounts, credit cards and even loans in their name.

What to do if you think you might be a victim

  • Visit Marriott’s website about the breach. Contact them directly through the call center listed on the site or read additional information about the breach.
  • Keep an eye on your email. Marriott has begun sending out notification emails to those that have been compromised. These roll-out emails begin Friday, November 30.
  • Marriott will provide guests with free WebWatcher enrollment. Free of charge for one year, it will monitor if your personal information is being used online without your permission.

Additional ways to protect yourself

If you’re concerned that you may be a victim, or just freaked out in general, here are a few actionable items you can start doing today:

  • Start changing your password on your Marriott Starwood accounts regularly. This is the first line of defense to keeping hackers out. Make sure your new password has at least 12 characters, tricky to guess, and doesn’t include any information that can be gleaned from your online profiles, like your birthday or home address.
  • Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. Keep an eye on your Starwood Preferred Guest account for any suspicious activity. Also check your bank, retirement, brokerage accounts, and credit card statements for anything unusual.
  • Freeze your credit. Keep anyone from taking out credit cards or loans in your name by freezing all credit.
  • Open a separate credit card for online transactions only. Make it easier to track transactions and spot fraudulent activity by using one dedicated credit card for online transactions. If compromised, you won’t have to change additional bills or utilities billing information, reducing additional stress and headache.
  • Be aware of anything fishy in the future. It’s not new that we should be vigilant with our actions online or on the phone. ‘Phishing’ schemes usually include people trying to access additional information from you or your computer with bogus emails, fake links, and fraudulent websites. Marriott has said they will not call or email you asking for your profile or password information. Do not provide this information if requested online or on the phone, as they are likely trying to steal additional personal information.
Categories
Travel News

What Travelers Should Know About The Marriott Starwood Merger

The news we’ve all been waiting for is here—Marriott International and Starwood have finally completed their $13 billion merger.  With the sale originally announced almost a year and a half ago, the twists and turns surrounding the Marriott Starwood merger occasionally felt like a daytime soap opera. Through it all, the travel industry has been anxiously waiting to hear the details, especially how travelers and travel managers will make out in the end.

What happened with Starwood?

  • In April 2015, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide first put itself up for sale.
  • They initially had 30 serious parties interested in merging, both U.S. and international.
  • In November 2015, Starwood announced a deal with Marriott for $12.2 billion. (Read Skift’s article about how Marriott played hard to get here.)
  • They slated the deal would be finalized by mid-2016, with a $400 million termination fee if it didn’t go through.
  • From there, the merger needed approval by regulatory authorities in over 40 countries. The U.N. also approved the deal in June.
  • The Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) requested more time in August to review the merger. They finally approved the deal September 20, 2016.
  • This merger created the world’s largest hotel company.

Marriott, the largest hotel company, ever:

  • The new company now has over 30 hotel brands. This includes operating or franchising more than 7,500 properties and 1.1 million rooms in more than 110 countries.
  • The hotels that are now under the Marriott- Starwood merger include:
    • Marriott, Courtyard, Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis,  The Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, Tribute Portfolio, Four Points by Sheraton, Element, and many more.

What does the Marriott Starwood merger mean for travelers?

One of the biggest concerns about the merger have been regarding the loyalty programs. Both companies have their own loyalty programs. And as any frequent travelers knows, their perks often keep the customer loyal. Well, good news for any worried road warrior out there. Marriott has acknowledged the necessity of loyalty programs since the beginning of the merger. Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott, said integrating Starwood’s guest loyalty program was ‘central, strategic, rationale for the transaction.’

This week, Marriott announced the loyalty points will be linked and transferable. One Starwood Preferred Guest point will be worth three Marriott Reward points. This is yet another strategic tactic that many travelers wont be able to pass up. The process to connect your loyalty rewards is already set up and ready to go. Simply start at Marriott’s New Member page and follow the steps.

Categories
Travel News

Traveling Green – What is your Carbon Footprint?

In honor of Earth Day last Friday, I thought I would share with you how companies large and small are looking at their carbon footprints. As an account manager, recently I have had companies request data regarding their carbon footprint and miles flown. It got me thinking about who the greenest companies are within the travel industry. Some of the information I was able to find took me by surprise.