Is China ratcheting up its cyber attacks on U.S. interests?

Is China ratcheting up its cyber attacks on U.S. interests?

Horace C. White

Modern Tokyo Times


China fingered in Marriott International cyber attack

By now, you are probably aware that hackers have been having a field day on the databases of nine high-class hotels managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide LLC, a subsidiary of world’s leading hotel chain Marriott International. To bring you up to speed with the latest development, investigators are incrementally making progress in the quest to piece together the identity of the attackers and their motive. According to Reuters, the cybercriminals who attacked the American hotel subsidiary are from China.


Reuters reported that the hackers were Chinese government spies who launched the attack on Marriott International to gather intelligence. Private investigators, Reuters says, unraveled hacking tools, procedures, and techniques that suggest the cybercriminals were from China. Nonetheless, based on Reuters’ in-depth analysis, other parties might also have access to all those clues, adding that China could potentially be the prime suspect. The officials worry that such amount of data breach could be used for espionage, burglary or reputational attacks. While the hospitality giant may be stolid about possible China complicity, the US government is likely to take it more seriously. This is particularly true given that the Trump administration is currently clashing with the Chinese government over trade and technology.

Is a full-blown trade war imminent?

There is no doubt at all that China is US biggest threat. In recent times, the world has seen China and the US disagree over issues, such as trade and technology. Consequently, the United States has encouraged its key allies to boycott China’s tech products. For example, one of the US allies currently implementing this plan is Australia. In August, the Australian government joined the list of US allies that have banned 5G network equipment from Chinese telecom giant, Huawei. In the statement, the Australian government noted that the ban would take effect from September 2018, citing a new telecom regulation. Bates Gill, a security expert at Sydney’s Macquarie University, told Wired that ban was likely influenced by the United States.

Background information

Last Friday, Marriott International Inc. disclosed that its Starwood database had been compromised. According to the press statement, over 500 million customer’s information was affected. Shockingly, the hotel admitted that its database was hijacked way back in 2014 and that the hacking had gone undetected ever since. In the press release, Marriott International disclosed that it merely realized that intruders have hijacked a component of its database in September 2018.

At press time, Marriott International is still trying to figure the amount of information the attackers have access to. Well, this means that for over four years, some unknown computer nerds have unfettered access to sensitive information from world travelers and other customers. For affecting more than half a billion customers, these attacks are only second to that of email service provider Yahoo!, which affected over 3 billion users in 2013. Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson said that they “deeply regret” the unfortunate incident, adding that they failed themselves and their guests.

In a bid to allay customer fears, Marriott International stated that the attackers could not have possibly decrypted its encrypted financial information. Nevertheless, it is erroneous to rule out the possibility that the attackers don’t access sensitive information such as credit card details, the hospitality giant admitted.

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