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June 27, 2012

U.S. Government Sues Wyndham Hotels for Security Breach

By Julie Griffin, Contributing Writer

Recent news involving hacking typically alludes to the notion that there are too many nerds with too much time on their hands. These “hactivists” break into accounts held by eHarmony and LinkedIn (News - Alert) claiming to spread awareness about security.

However, there are real accounts of corruption and repeated security breaches that some businesses have neglected to address, and the consequences are heavy. Such is the case with the New Jersey-based hotel chain, Wyndham Hotels. Perhaps if Wyndham took heed of the warnings given by security companies and hacktivists, they wouldn’t be at the mercy of the courts.

The press revealed that Wyndham’s chain of hotels, as well as its subsidiaries, now faces litigation from the Federal Trade Commission, and the FTC’s accusations are stunning.

The chain’s negligence led to the compromised security of over 600,000 accounts many of which acquired fraudulent charges. The FTC (News - Alert) is also accusing Wyndham of falsely asserting to customers that their accounts would be in safe hands.

According to a Wyndham website, "We recognize the importance of protecting the privacy of individual-specific (personally identifiable) information collected about guests, callers to our central reservation centers, visitors to our websites, and members participating in our Loyalty Program..."  

If Wyndham was sincere about recognizing the “importance of protecting…. personal information,” they did little to demonstrate this. Since 2008, their systems have been hacked by “memory-scraping malware” where a single address in Russia accessed thousands of pieces of account information.

According to reports, Wyndam’s account information was not successfully encrypted, and a software instillation allowed intruders credit information in lucid text, one year later. After three consecutive security breaches, the FTC decided enough was enough.

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Edited by Braden Becker
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