Marriott International Faces $178-million Fine in Wake of Data Breach.

The UK’s Information Commissioner's Office - ICO - has released a statement outlining its intention to issue a multi-million dollar fine to Marriott International totalling AUD $178 following a data breach that impacted up hundreds of millions of individuals.

We reported on the breach last year when the company offered to pay for new passports if they were affected by the breach; such was the scale and severity of the attack.

The ICO’s official statement says that “following an extensive investigation the ICO has issued a notice of its intention to fine Marriott International £99,200,396 for infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).”

The intention to fine Marriott comes just days after the ICO issued its intention to hit British Airways with an even larger fine in the wake of a data breach that hit millions of its customers.

The European Data Protection Board has released a statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office, confirming its intention to issue the fine, outlining that “the proposed fine relates to a cyber incident which was notified to the ICO by Marriott in November of 2018.”

“A variety of personal data contained in approximately 339-million guest records globally were exposed by the incident, of which around 30-million related to residents of 31 countries in the European Economic Area. Seven million related to UK residents,” the statement reads.

Elizabeth Denhan, the Information Commissioner said that “the GDPR makes it clear that organisations must be accountable for the personal data they hold.”

“This can include carrying out proper due diligence when making a corporate acquisition, and putting in place proper accountability measures to assess not only what personal data has been acquired, but also how it is protected,” she said.

“Personal data has a real value so organisations have a legal duty to ensure its security, just like they would do with any other asset. If that doesn’t happen, we will not hesitate to take strong action when necessary to protect the rights of the public,” Denham concluded.

The ICO’s statement continued to explain that “it is believed the vulnerability began when the systems of the Starwood hotels group were compromised in 2014. Marriott subsequently acquired Starwood in 2016, but the exposure of customer information was not discovered until 2018.”

“The ICO’s investigation found that Marriott failed to undertake sufficient due diligence when it bought Starwood and should have done more to secure its systems."

The ICO’s statement mentions the fact that the “Marriott has cooperated with the ICO investigation and has made improvements to its security arrangements since these events came to light. The company will now have an opportunity to make representations to the ICO as to the proposed findings and sanction.”

“The ICO has been investigating this case as lead supervisory authority on behalf of other EU Member State data protection authorities. It has also liaised with other regulators. Under the GDPR ‘one stop shop’ provisions the data protection authorities in the EU whose residents have been affected will also have the chance to comment on the ICO’s findings.”

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