Data Breach Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Marriott International, Inc.

A class-action lawsuit was filed on November 30, 2018 against Marriott International, Inc. (“Marriott) on behalf of over 500 million consumers whose personal information, including their names, birthdates, addresses, locations, gender information, email addresses, payment card information, and passport information were stolen.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Marriott is a leading global lodging company with more than 6,700 properties across 130 countries and territories, reporting revenues of more than $22 billion in fiscal year 2017. Founded by J. Willard and Alice Marriott and guided by family leadership for more than 90 years, the company is headquartered outside of Washington, D.C. Marriott’s hotel brands include W Hotels, St. Regis, Sheraton Hotels, and Westin Hotels. Source

The class action lawsuit alleges that cybercriminals broke into Marriott’s servers in 2014 and obtained the personal information of approximately 500 million Marriott customers, and continued to have access throughout Marriott’s system, with unfettered and undetected access, for four years. The lawsuit alleges that Marriott did not discover the breach until September 8, 2018 yet did not notify its consumers until November 30, 2018. Marriott allegedly does not know the origin or identity of the hackers and has not fully assessed the scope of the attack.

The Marriott class action lawsuit alleges that Marriott failed to ensure the integrity of its servers and to properly safeguard consumers’ highly sensitive and confidential information, knowing that it had an obligation to protect the personal and financial data of its guests and customers and being aware of the significant repercussions to its customers if it failed to do so.  The class-action lawsuit alleges that Marriott  violated consumer protection statutes, breached confidence, and was reckless and grossly negligent.

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On November 30, 2018, Marriott issued the following statement (in part):

Marriott has taken measures to investigate and address a data security incident involving the Starwood guest reservation database.  On November 19, 2018, the investigation determined that there was unauthorized access to the database, which contained guest information relating to reservations at Starwood properties* on or before September 10, 2018.

On September 8, 2018, Marriott received an alert from an internal security tool regarding an attempt to access the Starwood guest reservation database in the United States.  Marriott quickly engaged leading security experts to help determine what occurred.  Marriott learned during the investigation that there had been unauthorized access to the Starwood network since 2014.  The company recently discovered that an unauthorized party had copied and encrypted information, and took steps towards removing it.  On November 19, 2018, Marriott was able to decrypt the information and determined that the contents were from the Starwood guest reservation database.

The company has not finished identifying duplicate information in the database, but believes it contains information on up to approximately 500 million guests who made a reservation at a Starwood property.  For approximately 327 million of these guests, the information includes some combination of name, mailing address, phone number, email address, passport number, Starwood Preferred Guest (“SPG”) account information, date of birth, gender, arrival and departure information, reservation date, and communication preferences.  For some, the information also includes payment card numbers and payment card expiration dates, but the payment card numbers were encrypted using Advanced Encryption Standard encryption (AES-128).  There are two components needed to decrypt the payment card numbers, and at this point, Marriott has not been able to rule out the possibility that both were taken.  For the remaining guests, the information was limited to name and sometimes other data such as mailing address, email address, or other information.

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