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Attacks/Breaches

8/28/2008
04:28 PM
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Best Western CIO Scott Gibson On The Data Breach That Wasn't

Gibson has been dealing with a small data breach that somehow snowballed into eight million records stolen and tagged as "one of the most audacious cyber-crimes ever."

Best Western CIO Scott Gibson hasn't been getting much sleep. "I've decided that sleep is highly overrated," he says ruefully.

Gibson has been dealing with a small data breach that somehow became "one of the most audacious cyber-crimes ever," as Glasgow's Sunday Herald put it.

The Sunday Herald on Monday reported that the previous Thursday night, an "Indian hacker successfully breached the IT defenses of the Best Western Hotel group's online booking system and sold details of how to access it through an underground network operated by the Russian mafia."

Eight million records were stolen, according to The Herald.

Gibson says that's just not accurate. There was a data breach. It occurred at the 107-room Best Western Hotel am Schloss Kopenick in Berlin, Germany. But it didn't involve 8 million records.

InformationWeek spoke with Gibson about what happened.

Gibson: [The Herald] asked us about apples. We gave them comments about apples. Then they wrote a story about oranges. I think that goes a long way to explain what they published and our response the original report. It was a few facts. Those facts were of course very alarming, because it's always alarming when you're talking about the security of the information that belongs to your customers. But they were very limited in scope. So we thought we had an understanding of the story they were telling and we knew we had an understanding of what had actually happened. So I would say probably we didn't give the response that we would if they had told us what they were actually going to report.

InformationWeek: Has The Herald issued a retraction or correction?

Gibson: No, we've certainly asked them to do that but they really haven't been responsive to us.

InformationWeek: How did the Herald arrive at a figure of 8 million?

Gibson: It's hard to speculate where they got that number. If I had to guess I'd say they just did some math. In their original interchange with us, what they asked for was some general information about Best Western. They asked us to corroborate how many hotels we had in Europe and how many guests we would have in a year and they asked us questions like that. Those are the kinds of questions we routinely corroborate because they just go to background. It seems to me that they were taking this information and turning it into these allegations.

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