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The hotel chain says that only 13 customer records may have been exposed, not the millions that a Scotland newspaper reported.

Thomas Claburn

August 25, 2008

2 Min Read

The Sunday Herald in Glasgow, Scotland, called it "one of the most audacious cyber-crimes ever."

The Best Western hotel chain, supposedly robbed of some 8 million customer records, has responded by accusing the paper of being sensationalistic. It counts a mere 13 records that may have been exposed as a result of "suspicious activity."

The Sunday Herald on Monday reported that late Thursday night, "a previously unknown 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."

The report claims that records of every customer to have booked a room at one of the Best Western's 1,312 continental hotels since 2007 -- 8 million -- were taken.

In a public statement, Best Western questioned the Sunday Herald's story, saying that it "is grossly unsubstantiated" and that the paper's claims about its customer records "are not accurate."

"We have found no evidence to support the sensational claims ultimately made by the reporter and newspaper," the statement says. "Most importantly, whereas the reporter asserted the recent compromise of data for past guests from as far back as 2007, Best Western purges all online reservations promptly upon guest departure."

In an e-mail, a Best Western spokesperson said, "There was one instance of suspicious activity at a single hotel with respect to 13 guests, who are being notified. We are working with the FBI and international authorities to investigate the source of the other claims, which were never presented to us for investigation prior to publication of the Herald story. We have found no suspicious activity to support them."

Best Western, said the spokesperson, plans to release further details as its investigation progresses.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Claburn

Editor at Large, Enterprise Mobility

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful master's degree in film production. He wrote the original treatment for 3DO's Killing Time, a short story that appeared in On Spec, and the screenplay for an independent film called The Hanged Man, which he would later direct. He's the author of a science fiction novel, Reflecting Fires, and a sadly neglected blog, Lot 49. His iPhone game, Blocfall, is available through the iTunes App Store. His wife is a talented jazz singer; he does not sing, which is for the best.

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