Published: Thu, December 13, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Authorities think agents from China’s Ministry of State Security hacked Marriott

Authorities think agents from China’s Ministry of State Security hacked Marriott

The hack into Marriott's Starwood is part of Chinese intelligence-gathering efforts that also hacked into health insurers and security clearance files of millions of Americans, The New York Times reports.

"We consider them a strategic competitor", he added, referring to China, the world's second largest economy.

According to the New York Times, the hackers that broke into Marriott's systems are said to have worked on behalf of China's Ministry of State Security, which is the nation's civilian-run spy agency.

Moreover, Washington is expected this week to unveil new charges against Chinese military and intelligence hackers as it seeks to counter what is seen as a broad-based, sustained cyber threat against United States government and corporate targets from Beijing. Officials are also preparing to declassify documents detailing efforts by Chinese agents to compile a database of American executives with security clearances. Earlier this month, a top executive at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei was arrested in Canada at the behest of U.S. authorities who accused her of deceiving financial institutions, putting them in a position to violate sanctions against Iran.

Following a company-wide database assessment, Marriott concluded on November 19 the breach occurred on Starwood's network and that unauthorized activity has taken place on its servers since 2014, which included duplicating and encrypting data.

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Meng, Huawei's Chief Financial Officer, was picked up on a USA warrant on December 1 and has been granted bail pending extradition hearings.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is said to be investigating the Marriott hack.

The data breach, which was revealed last month, led to the personal information of 500m of its customers being exposed online including names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, passport numbers, dates of birth as well as credit card information.

President Donald Trump said he would get involved in the Huawei case if it would help produce a trade agreement with China, but Canada's Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Wednesday warned the United States not to politicise extradition cases. The hospitality group itself has not commented on the likely hackers. The data breach, which was not discovered until this year, ranks among the largest in US history.

A Marriott spokeswoman said it had "no information about the cause of this incident" and hadn't speculated about the attacker's identity.

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