Aug 25 2008   6:33PM GMT

European Hotel Chain Has Their Customer Data For the Past Year Accessed

Arian Eigen Heald Arian Eigen Heald Profile: Arian Eigen Heald

Visited Europe in the last year and used a Best Western Hotel? Your credit card, expiration date, the company that employs you, your name, address and future bookings may be in the possession of a Russian Mafia website. An enterprising Scottish newspaper, the Sunday Herald, noticed on Thursday night that an Indian hacker offered to sell access to Best Western and notified Best Western about the breach. Although Best Western closed the hole on Friday, the horse is out of the barn.

Eight million people stayed at 1,312 locations from 2007. Is this “Identity Theft?” It’s a darned nice start. Only the Social Security number is missing. Certainly the names, addresses, business information, details of employment, credit card numbers and expiration dates could be used for synthetic identity theft.

According to the Herald:

“The Sunday Herald understands that a hacker from India – new to the world of cyber-crime – succeeded in bypassing the system’s security software and placing a Trojan virus on one of the Best Western Hotel machines used for reservations. The next time a member of staff logged in, her username and password were collected and stored.”

One of the first things I learned doing penetration testing was that you don’t have to have some fancy piece of coding to break in. It can be the simplest thing – finding a set of keys in someone’s desk – that gets you into the server room. In fact, it usually IS the simplest thing. Their web site may have great security, but that was easily bypassed by a user login.

Best Western evidently had not noticed all the activity that account was generating – sucking all the data out of their databases. Which takes us back to auditing databases, doesn’t it?

Best Western’s response? Tim Wade, head of marketing for Best Western GB, said it was “unlikely” that whoever was responsible got hold of the details of “every booking at every hotel” in Europe because of the way their system worked. Has anyone mentioned to Best Western that letting a marketing guy handle communications for a data breach is not always the best choice? “Unlikely” is not a word that I find comforting. What are the facts? Why don’t they know exactly how much was taken? Because they probably don’t have any security logging in the right place. It’s why they didn’t notice the breach in the first place.

Let’s hope they didn’t get all the way into the American side of the company. Or maybe they have. How would we know?

1  Comment on this Post

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  • Benjaminwright215
    Arian: Best Western now says only a handful of records were compromised, not millions. Data security investigations are complex, and they require patience. As we learned from the TJX experience, it is easy for the press and for authorities to over-react. --Ben [A href=""][/A]
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