Best Western releases a statement on the supposed security breach

Sunday Herald reporter Iain S Bruce wrote a piece on the “world’s biggest cyber heist” dealing with the Best Western hotel chain:

An international criminal gang has pulled off one of the most audacious cyber-crimes ever and stolen the identities of an estimated eight million people in a hacking raid that could ultimately net more than £2.8billion in illegal funds.

A Sunday Herald investigation has discovered that late on Thursday night, a previously unknown Indian hacker successfully breached the IT defences of the Best Western Hotel group’s online booking system and sold details of how to access it through an underground network operated by the Russian mafia.

Best Western released their statement on the issue:

The story printed in the Sunday, August 24, 2008, Glasgow Sunday Herald claiming a security breach of Best Western guest information is grossly unsubstantiated. Claims reported about our Central Reservations customer records are not accurate. We at Best Western take the confidentiality of our customers’ personal information very seriously. The Sunday Herald reporter brought to our attention the possible compromise of a select portion of data at a single hotel; we investigated immediately and provided commentary.

Best Western would have welcomed the opportunity to fact-check the story, which would have resulted in more accurate and credible reporting on the part of the newspaper. We have found no evidence to support the sensational claims ultimately made by the reporter and newspaper.

Most importantly, whereas the reporter asserted the recent compromise of data for past guests from as far back as 2007, Best Western purges all online reservations promptly upon guest departure.

Best Western is committed to safeguarding the confidential information of our guests. We comply with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS). To maintain that compliance, Best Western maintains a secure network protected by firewalls and governed by a strong information security policy.

We collect credit card information only when it is necessary to process a guest’s reservation; we restrict access to that information to only those requiring access and through the use of unique and individual, password-protected points of entry; we encrypt credit card information in our systems and databases and in any electronic transmission over public networks; and again, we delete credit card information and all other personal information upon guest departure.

We regularly test our systems and processes in an effort to protect customer information, and employ the services of industry-leading third-party firms to evaluate our safeguards.

PCI requires the periodic evaluation, testing, and re-certification of compliance. To that end, our most recent internal review was conducted in August 2008, as was our most recent external test and review. Both evaluations showed Best Western to be compliant with PCI DSS.

Best Western would like to assure our customers, member hotels and business partners that we have no evidence to suggest that there is need for widespread concern. As a precautionary measure, now and always, we advise guests to review their credit card statements closely, and we will of course continue to comply with PCI standards going forward. Customer inquiries should be directed to our US customer service team at 800 528-1238.

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