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Best Western plays down impact of hack attack

8 million records? Huh, more like 10

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Hotel chain Best Western has denied falling victim to a large-scale hacking attack.

A report in the Scotland's Glasgow Sunday Herald claims that the hotel chain has been turned over by a hacker who lifted eight million customer records. It reports that the Indian hacker who carried out the heist sold on the information to Russian cybercriminals. Data allegedly stolen included addresses, telephone numbers and credit card details.

The attack was pulled off using a Trojan horse to infect a PC with access to the hotel's online booking system.

Details of anyone who stayed in any of 1,312 European Best Western since last year were potentially exposed by the hack, the Herald claims. However, Best Western said that only one of its hotels (in Berlin) was hit and that only a handful of customers were affected.

The Herald reported that the breach was discovered on Thursday and shot down, following a tip-off to the hotel by the paper, on Friday afternoon (22 August). This makes for one of the few points of agreement between the paper and hotel.

Best Western said that the impact of the attack had been grossly overestimated. A spokeswoman said that the breach involved just one hotel in Germany and only ten customer records. Best Western added that because the hotel chain purges customer records a week after guests leave, the claims in the Herald report simply don't stack up.

We can confirm that on August 21, 2008, three separate attempts were made via a single log-on ID to access the same data from a single hotel. The hotel in question is the 107-room Best Western Hotel am Schloss Kopenick in Berlin, Germany, where a Trojan horse virus was detected by the hotel’s anti-virus software. The compromised log-in ID permitted access to reservations data for that property only. The log-in ID was immediately terminated, and the computer in question has been removed from use.

We can also confirm that we have been able to narrow down the number of customers affected by this breach to ten. We are currently contacting those customers and offering assistance as needed.

We are working with the FBI and international authorities to investigate further.

Best Western's statement adds that it plans to "reinforce best data protection practices" at our 4000 worldwide hotels. The chain is already compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS).

Customers with concerns are encouraged to call Best Western Customer Care in the US on +1 800 528 1238. ®

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