Choice Hotels Data Breach Compromises 700,000 Consumers’ Information

Published on August 13, 2019

Hackers apparently stole the personal information of 700,000 customers that have stayed at any of the hotels as part of the Choice Hotels family recently, according to a website called Comparitech. The report reveals that at least 700,000 guest records were stolen in a data breach that included information such as names, email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers of any customers that have stayed at any number of the company’s affordable hotel chains. Among the hotels that are included in the Choice Hotels family include Comfort, Econo Lodge, Cambria, Rodeway Inn, Quality Inn, and Mainstay Suites, to name a few. Experts warn that consumers could see themselves as the targets of an increase in phishing scams as a result of the data breach.

What Happened?

An expert in security research named Bob Diachenko worked on the investigation with Comparitech, which broke the story on August 13. The investigation revealed that customer information was accessible through an unsecured database that a vendor had set up. The database left customer information exposed to potential hackers. By the time Diachenko and Comparitech learned of the exposure, hackers had already breached the system and demanded a ransom of .4 Bitcoin—which is a little less than $4,o00. The report did not specify whether or not the breach affected only customers within a certain time frame.

While the data breach may not have included any financial information, it still poses a threat to consumer financial safety if hackers are able to use the information to phish data. Experts warn that Choice Hotel customers should be wary of any new text messages, mail, or emails they may receive in the future. If a mysterious phone number calls and claims that credit card information has been compromised or that you’ve won a trip to a foreign country, simply hang up. Additionally, be wary of clicking on any links that may come from unrecognized email addresses, or email addresses that seem out of character. Comparitech detailed a timeline of the data breach, which shows that it took place sometime before June 30. Choice Hotels has allegedly stopped working with the vendor that allowed for the breach to happen in the first place.

Other Recent Data Breaches

Data breaches are, unfortunately, all too common today. Equifax was recently forced to give a settlement to everyone affected by a 2017 data breach that lost the credit card and social security information of millions of American consumers. Another data breach that was revealed in 2018 showed how a U.K.-based data marketing firm called Cambridge Analytica harvested the user information of around 80 million Facebook users and used it against them during the 2016 Presidential election, as well as elections around the world and the Brexit vote in 2016.

While the Choice Hotel breach reveals less immediate damage than the loss of information like credit card numbers and social security numbers, it will force consumers to be on-edge over the looming threat of being scammed into giving up their financial and personal data. The best way to prevent this? Educate yourself on how to avoid phishing scams.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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