US investigators have reportedly traced the massive data breach on Marriott customer data to Chinese hackers, a move that will likely exacerbate ongoing US-China economic tensions.
The Post’s sources warned against making definitive conclusions on the attack, as the investigation was still ongoing, but said the methods of the hack suggested it was state-sponsored. Private investigators also identified the techniques as those previously used in attacks attributed to Chinese hackers, Reuters reported.
Marriott, which operates more than 5,800 properties in more than 110 countries, says it is the top hotel provider to the US government and military personnel.
Marriott is the top hotel provider to the US government and military personnel.
The hotel chain announced in late November 2018 that about 500 million customers had their personal data breached in the attack, which began four years ago.
About 327 million of them had information like their name, phone number, and passport number taken, while an unspecified number had their credit card details taken.
The Trump administration has been planning to declassify US intelligence reports that show China’s efforts to build a database with the names of US government officials with security clearances, the Times reported.
People involved in the company’s private investigation into the breach also said the hackers may have been trying to collect information for China’s spy agencies, rather than for financial gain, Reuters reported.
Passport numbers, which are not usually collected in data breaches, may have been a particularly valuable discovery for the hackers, the Post said.
Beijing has denied responsibility for the attack.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry, told reporters: “China firmly opposes all forms of cyber attack and cracks down on it in accordance with the law. If offered evidence, the relevant Chinese departments will carry out investigations according to the law. We firmly object to making groundless accusations on the issue of cyber security.”
US-China tensions over trade and cyber policies are mounting. Here, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump in 2017.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Reports of Beijing’s involvement in the Marriott breach comes amid mounting tensions between the US and China over trade tariffs and cyber policies.
Washington has been planning to issue a series of measures that include indictments and possible sanctions against Chinese hackers, The Times and Post both reported.
Beijing is currently reeling over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei and the daughter of the company’s founder, over her alleged involvement in Iran sanction violations.
She was granted bail at .4 million while she awaits a hearing for extradition to the US. December 2018, Beijing summoned the US ambassador to China and warned of “grave consequences” if Meng was not released.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.