Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security

12/4/2018
08:15 AM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
50%
50%

Marriott's Due Diligence Failure Led to Massive Data Breach

After acquiring Starwood, Marriott failed to conduct a proper review of the company's security issues. This lack of due diligence led directly to 500 million records being compromised in a data breach.

The data breach affecting about 500 million Marriott and Starwood customers has made a huge splash in both the popular and the security arenas. It's a reminder of the fragility of information that is used by businesses.

Not only that, the end costs of this episode are going to be staggering.

The first class-action lawsuits on behalf of customers have already been filed. Marriott stock dropped about 6% since the breach was first disclosed on November 30. The loss of confidence of customers in the Marriott brand -- even though the breach involved a Starwood database system -- will also take a great toll. (See Marriott: 500 Million Guest Records Compromised in Data Breach.)

Collateral damage with this kind of breach is very real, with Marriott getting blamed for Starwood's mistakes even though they occurred well before the acquisition. This is similar to what happened when Verizon realized Yahoo had been breached after the acquisition was announced. The terms of the deal had to be retroactively modified. (See SEC Slaps Yahoo Successor With $35M Fine for 2014 Data Breach.)

But, more than that, it shows that how business is conducted today needs to be revised and upgraded. The faults that lead up to this breach were not just due to some simple security fault in a reservation database. They were systemic and deeply rooted in business practices.

The obvious problem here is that Marriott did not perform an effective due diligence on the Starwood computer networks when they bought the company.

A Forrester report sums up the questions around this due diligence situation nicely:

Did Marriott know -- or try to discover -- that Starwood's network and database security controls, processes, and governance made attacks like this possible over a sustained period of time? Did it know that an attacker could get access to the reservation system in the first place -- where the "crown jewels" would obviously be -- and upon obtaining access to that could snag almost every bit of customer data it held and dwell there for multiple years without being detected?

It's not like Marriott didn't have some red flags.

In 2015 -- four days after Marriott announced the acquisition -- Starwood reported a different breach. Attackers installed malware on point-of-sale systems for payment-card information. A deep investigation of the entire system may have shown the presence of the long-resident attack.

In an email to Security Now, Rich Campagna, chief marketing officer of security vendor Bitglass, noted: "Marriott is not alone in its lack of visibility over its infrastructure. Any organization that acquires another business and its IT assets will be faced with major security blind spots unless the right tools are in place. Marriott should be looking at the infrastructure affiliated with all its prior acquisitions, ensuring that the security controls in place are as effective as possible."

It's painfully obvious that cybersecurity due diligence in M&A is going to be central.

If the acquirer doesn't pay for those costs when the deal is cut, then the costs due to the lack of diligence that will show up at a later date will only make everything far more expensive.

Management has always viewed security and its associated cost as a drain on profit. They need to change their view drastically, seeing it as an insurance on making everything work out correctly.

Related posts:

— Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
More SolarWinds Attack Details Emerge
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  1/12/2021
Vulnerability Management Has a Data Problem
Tal Morgenstern, Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer, Vulcan Cyber,  1/14/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
2020: The Year in Security
Download this Tech Digest for a look at the biggest security stories that - so far - have shaped a very strange and stressful year.
Flash Poll
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
Assessing Cybersecurity Risk in Today's Enterprises
COVID-19 has created a new IT paradigm in the enterprise -- and a new level of cybersecurity risk. This report offers a look at how enterprises are assessing and managing cyber-risk under the new normal.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-7343
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
Missing Authorization vulnerability in McAfee Agent (MA) for Windows prior to 5.7.1 allows local users to block McAfee product updates by manipulating a directory used by MA for temporary files. The product would continue to function with out-of-date detection files.
CVE-2020-28476
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
All versions of package tornado are vulnerable to Web Cache Poisoning by using a vector called parameter cloaking. When the attacker can separate query parameters using a semicolon (;), they can cause a difference in the interpretation of the request between the proxy (running with default configura...
CVE-2020-28473
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
The package bottle from 0 and before 0.12.19 are vulnerable to Web Cache Poisoning by using a vector called parameter cloaking. When the attacker can separate query parameters using a semicolon (;), they can cause a difference in the interpretation of the request between the proxy (running with defa...
CVE-2021-25173
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
An issue was discovered in Open Design Alliance Drawings SDK before 2021.12. A memory allocation with excessive size vulnerability exists when reading malformed DGN files, which allows attackers to cause a crash, potentially enabling denial of service (crash, exit, or restart).
CVE-2021-25174
PUBLISHED: 2021-01-18
An issue was discovered in Open Design Alliance Drawings SDK before 2021.12. A memory corruption vulnerability exists when reading malformed DGN files. It can allow attackers to cause a crash, potentially enabling denial of service (Crash, Exit, or Restart).