The Marriott hack that affected 500 million Starwood Hotels guests is now believed to be linked to Chinese intelligence operatives. If you recall, the Marriott hack started four years ago up until this year, prompting many questions about how and why Marriott allowed this to happen. CNBC reports that clues left behind by the hackers suggest they were employed by Chinese government intelligence.
Private investigators hired by the company have discovered signs similar to previous hacks blamed on Chinese intelligence. Sources tell CNBC that the hack was likely being used to gather data for use in espionage operations and not looking to exploit individuals financial information. While the investigators are presenting this possibility, they also say they want to be cautious because others may have gotten their hands on the same techniques. Pinpointing the bad actors may take some time considering the crime began in 2014.
If investigators confirm that China was behind the attack, that could complicate already tense relations between Washington and Beijing, amid an ongoing tariff dispute and U.S. accusations of Chinese espionage and the theft of trade secrets.
Marriott spokeswoman Connie Kim declined to comment, saying “We’ve got nothing to share,” when asked about the involvement of Chinese hackers.
Former senior FBI official Robert Anderson told Reuters that the Marriott case looked similar to hacks that the Chinese government was
conductingin 2014 as part of its intelligence operations.
“Think of the depth of knowledge they could now have about travel habits or who happened to be in a certain city at the same time as another person,” said Anderson, who served as FBI executive assistant director until 2015.
“It fits with how the Chinese intelligence services think about things. It’s all very long range,” said Anderson, who was not involved in investigating the Marriott case and is now a principal with Chertoff Group.
This whole case is going to take some time to get through and it will be interesting to see what information comes out on the other side.