Large brand name hotels like Marriott vulnerable to credit card theft

by Emily DUNBAR on July 9, 2010

According to a credit card theft tracking firm, hotels are the most likely place for holidaymakers to have their credit card data stolen.

Surpassing restaurants has prime targets, hotels and booking centres have become the ideal hacking ground for internet criminals. Reservation centres often hold onto thousands of credit card numbers in their files. Just one successful attempt to break in can result in those records being distributed all over the world during an internet crime shopping spree.

Fraudulent charges will appear immediately after check-out, several hours later or even months after a hotel stay. Contrary to some reports, the issue is not just an issue at small accommodation providers, but has also begun to impact larger international chains as well. According to Trustwave chairman and CEO Robert J McCullen, the problem is just as prevalent in top name brands.

Mr McCullen’s company is hired by hotels to provide a protection service for sensitive data information systems. During a recent report, issued by the firm, it was found that 83 per cent of data breaches during last year were with hotels. Restaurants, which was at one point the leader in this industry issue, has diminished to 13 per cent of all cases. In the past 18 months hotels have quickly grown as targets, Mr McCullen said.

He explained that a major appeal in hotels is the large number of points involved when collecting credit card information. Large hotel brands often use the same credit card systems for many of their properties making it widespread hacking more accessible. For example, those hacking in to Marriott’s system in Salt Lake City, could then also potential retrieve all the credit card data for its properties in New Orleans. Similarly if they hack the Sheraton system, they may then too have access to its line of Westins brand name as well.

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