14 December, 2018
Citing two unnamed sources "briefed on the investigation", the newspaper on Tuesday reported that the attack is believed to be part of a larger "intelligence-gathering effort" by China's Ministry of State Security spy agency.
An internal security tool flagged the possible breach beginning on September 8 and later discovered the hackers had accessed customer information and attempted to remove it in encrypted form, the company said. The MSS has been tied to many Chinese government espionage operations around sensitive United States networks recently.
China has reportedly been trying to build a database containing U.S. government officials' personal information.
Reports of Beijing's involvement in the Marriott breach comes amid mounting tensions between the USA and China over trade tariffs and cyber policies.
The US is clamping down on what it sees as a sustained attack on its government and companies and is expected to announce new charges this week against hackers from China's military and intelligence services. The Trump administration is also planning to declassify intelligence that shows some of China's illicit cyber activities and considering issuing an executive order that targets Chinese companies trying to get their hands on certain pieces of telecommunications equipment.
Washington sees them as part of an espionage effort that has targeted health insurers and the US civil service employment database.
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Beijing is now reeling over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei and the daughter of the company's founder, over her alleged involvement in Iran sanction violations.
"For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest ("SPG") account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences", the company said.
The Chinese are, obviously, denying everything.
She was granted bail at $7.4 million while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the US.
It seems as Marriott bought itself a Chinese data breach, so to speak.
Global hotel chain Marriott is still reeling from a massive data breach, which is now being linked to Chinese intelligence efforts.