Wyndham Hotels Hack Exposes Guest Names, Credit Cards
State Attorney General of Florida warns residents whose accounts may have been compromised to keep an eye on their credit reports for suspicious activity
Kelly Jackson Higgins,
February 17, 2009
Another day, another data breach disclosure: This time hotel chain Wyndham Hotels and Resorts (WHR) has revealed that a computer break-in late last summer at one of its franchise hotels exposed guest names and credit card data across 41 of its properties.
Wyndham alerted customers who were affected by the breach just before Christmas, but is now going public with details of the hack. An attacker used a "centralized network connection" at one WHR franchise to access and download information from several WHR properties, and only WHR hotels were affected in the breach, according to the hotel chain, which first discovered the breach in mid-September.
The hotel chain says guest and cardholder names, account numbers, and payment card information were potentially exposed in the hack. The number of Wyndham customer accounts affected by the breach was reported as 21,000 when it was first made public in late December, according to the Open Security Foundation's Data Loss database.
The State Attorney General of Florida yesterday warned state residents affected by the breach to monitor their credit reports for unusual or suspicious activity. Wyndham says affected customers represent a cross-section of its global base. The breach was discovered after the hotel chain noticed "unusual activity" in one of its servers, which was used to siphon data to an "offsite URL," according to Wyndham.
Why the lull in notification of the breach? Wyndham says a full investigation -- including contacting law enforcement -- took eight weeks, and the hotel chain had to match payment card data with contact information of its customers.
"At this time, no criminal identity theft related to the use of the consumer data has been identified. Importantly, we believe that it is unlikely that identity theft will occur because of the limited amount of information that was compromised. Birthdates, SSNs, addresses, or other personally identifying information were not kept by the hotels and therefore not part of the compromise," Wyndham says in a posting on its Website. "Nevertheless, we recommend that you regularly monitor your card and bank statements and that you promptly report all suspicious activity to the financial institution that issued your card."
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