Marriott Data Breach: What Should You Do?

Last week, one of the largest hotel chains in the world, Marriott International, Inc., announced that a massive data breach of its Starwood reservation system exposed the personal information of up to 500 million guests. Those who stayed at the chain’s Starwood brand hotels from 2014 through September 10, 2018 are affected. That’s four long years of data theft before the hackers were detected.

This is the fourth massive U.S. data breach since 2013, including Yahoo (3 billion accounts), Equifax (147 million consumers) and Target (40 million customers). The Marriott break-in not only exposed names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card information, but rarer data too, including birth dates, gender and passport information from international guests.

While its credit card information was encrypted, Marriott indicated it’s possible that the hackers were able to steal the encryption keys, rendering the credit card data encryption worthless.

What’s Marriott doing for its guests?

Marriott has already set up an information page for the Starwood Guest Reservation Database Security Incident. On the page they briefly explain the breach’s timeline and what data is involved. Marriott stated that among other actions, it’s working to quickly phase out the old Starwood reservation system. Marriott indicated that they started sending notification emails to affected guests last week. It will take a while to notify everyone. If you’re affected, Marriott has established a dedicated call center and they’ve arranged for affected guests to be able to enroll in Kroll’s Web Watcher fraud monitoring. It’s free for one year, but only available to customers in the U.S. Canada and the U.K.

What should Marriott customers affected by the breach do for themselves?

Check that any notification email received from Marriott is legitimate: With a breach this large there’s little doubt that malicious hackers will try to scam Marriott customers with phishing and other fraudulent schemes to harvest their personal information. Marriott’s email notification won’t contain attachments or requests for any information. Its links will solely bring affected guests to the Starwood Guest Reservation Database Security Incident page.

Sign up for Web Watcher: There’s no reason not to sign up for the free year of Web Watcher fraud monitoring, if it’s offered in your country of residence. Click on your country on the right side of the “Security Incident” page to get the “Enroll Now” link.
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Consider freezing your credit: You can freeze your credit for free. It will prevent anyone from opening a new account, taking out a loan, or obtaining a new credit card in your name. Freezing your credit won’t damage your credit score. You’ve got to freeze your credit at all three credit bureaus for it to be effective, so contact Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you find you need to take out a loan or get a new credit card yourself, you can lift the freeze for a limited time or for a particular entity.

What should every traveler do whether or not they’re affected by the Marriott breach?

Get a password manager: A password manager can create, store and automatically fill in your passwords along with other login information. You can store them for accessing websites, online accounts, etc.

Change your Marriott password: If you have both Marriott and Starwood accounts, it’s time to combine them into one account, then change your password.

Set a strong password and make it at least twelve digits long. According to How Secure Is My Password, using an eight digit password with at least one small and one capital letter, a symbol and a number would take a computer just four weeks to crack. If you just add four extra numbers, twelve digits total, it would take about 3 million years to crack that password.

You should use a different password for every website and account. Since you’re hopefully now using a password manager, that’s easy to accomplish, as is changing your passwords regularly.

Edit your Marriott profile: Put only the required information in your profile. Remove any other information. If your profile is breached, only the information there can be stolen.
Credit and debit cards are optional in Marriott profiles. If you enter a card for your convenience, make it a credit card. They have more consumer protection than debit cards. When you get to your hotel you can pay with almost any card, regardless of your profile.

Monitor your Marriott/SPG account and all financial accounts: You should always monitor all your financial accounts, looking for unauthorized activity and incorrect information.

User Responsibility: While extremely easy to use and convenient, online information storage and transactions make our personal and financial information vulnerable to criminal activities. It’s up to each one of us to take prudent measures to protect our identity and finances to the extent possible. The commonsense approach and actions outlined above for your Marriott account should be applied to all your online accounts for your personal and financial protection.

DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to be legal advice. The article simply serves as a suggestion of possible actions for those who may have been affected by the Marriott Data Breach.

Plastic Airport Security Trays Full of Viruses

The following article was provided by Incentive Connection Travel.

The highest levels of respiratory viruses at airports are on the plastic trays used at security checkpoints, a new study finds.

Researchers took samples from a variety of of surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Finland and found evidence of respiratory viruses on 10 percent of the surfaces.

The highest virus levels were found on plastic trays used at the hand luggage X-ray checkpoint, but viruses were also detected on shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children’s play areas and in the air.

No respiratory viruses were found on toilet surfaces, according to the study published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases.

“This study supports the case for improved public awareness of how viral infections spread. People can help to minimize contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times, but especially in public places. These simple precautions can help prevent pandemics and are most important in crowded areas like airports that have a high volume of people travelling to and from many different parts of the world,” said study author Jonathan Van Tam, a professor of health protection at the University of Nottingham, in the U.K.

“The presence of microbes in the environment of an airport has not been investigated previously. The new findings support preparedness planning for controlling the spread of serious infectious diseases in airports. The results also provide new ideas for technical improvements in airport design and refurbishment,” study author Niina Ikonen, a virology expert at the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, said in a Nottingham news release.

Discipleship Travel LLC comments:

We have found Purell Sanitizing Wipes (see box below) to be a helpful airport travel item. We use them to clean the seat area, including armrests, seat belt buckle, tray table, etc., before getting settled into our seats. With the recent study results, it might not be a bad idea to wipe the plastic trays in security.

 

Avoiding the Flu While Flying

The Associated Press is reporting on a recently published study that confirms “what some experts have been saying for years,” namely, that flying in a window seat might help travelers avoid the flu and/or colds.

Lead researcher Vicki Stover Hertzberg of Emory University, says,

get in that window seat and don’t move.

You can read the complete article here.

 

 

Unrest and Tourism in Israel

Below is a video report on the current unrest and tourism published on October 15, 2015 by SarEl Tours, one of the largest ground agencies in Israel.

News from Israel’s Ministry of Tourism

Here’s the latest from the Israel Ministry of Tourism.

What’s happening where?

For some days rockets have been fired from the Palestinians’ Gaza Strip into southern Israel. A majority of the rockets have been brought down by Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system, but some have landed in towns and cities in a quite large area.

Is this where I’m going?

Probably not. Most of the areas the rockets have reached are off the usual tourist routes, but a few have been aimed towards Tel Aviv. Most of the rockets launched towards Tel Aviv were deflected by the Iron Dome. No tourists have been involved in any incidents.

How does all this affect my travel plans?

It probably doesn’t. Conditions in most of Israel are normal – with children going to school, people shopping, going to restaurants, going to the beach, and sightseeing.

Yes, but are people still going?

There are currently more than 100,000 tourists vacationing in Israel and there are no signs whatsoever that visitors are cutting their trips short. Individuals and groups continue to depart the U.S. and Canada for Israel without interruption.

But surely…

If you’re taking an organized tour, and should it be necessary, your tour operator will adjust your itinerary. If you’re traveling independently, hotels and tour guides are equipped to assist you and to suggest what you should and should not do, and where you should or should not go.  In addition to our www.goisrael.com, the website of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv israel.usembassy.gov gives up-to-date information for the benefit of Americans visiting our country

Yes, but…

As hard as it may seem to comprehend from thousands of miles away, the current situation has little effect on life in most of Israel.  2012 has already broken the record as the best-ever year for tourism to Israel, with more international travelers visiting Israel than ever before.  More than 80 airlines are operating their normal schedules to and from Israel, and today, as every day, close to 20 flights are operating nonstop between the United States and Canada and Israel, and vice versa.

Are you sure?

Tourists and tourism are very important to the State of Israel. If we felt it was inappropriate for you to come now, we would ask you not to.

If you’re already in Israel you are in good hands and know there’s nothing to be overly concerned about. And if you’re on your way: “Bon Voyage.” We look forward to greeting you.

UPDATED November 19, 2012

Source: http://tinyurl.com/chgat7z