After conducting an initial investigation into last month's security breach of Marriott's Starwood chain hotel reservation system, U.S. government investigators believe that Chinese state hackers are to blame. The Marriott's Starwood subsidiaries' reservation system breach is one of the largest in American history.
The breach exposed the private information and travel itineraries of as many as 500 million Marriott customers, reports the Washington Post. The investigation has not been completed yet, but officials close to the case believe the tactics of the hack indicate that it was executed by people affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of State Security.
An internal security tool flagged the possible breach on September 8, and later revealed that the hackers had accessed critical customer information -- and tried to remove it in encrypted form, the company said. It wasn't until November that Marriott was able to decrypt the information and understand the extent of the breach.
The MSS, an intelligence and security agency, has been accused of instigating many Chinese government intrusions into U.S. networks in recent years. Some U.S. intelligence officials speculate that the breach of Marriott's system was conducted to expand upon the Chinese data sets which hackers have been accruing for years against the U.S. and other citizens of competing nations.