Marriott's Starwood Data Breach Affects 500 Million People. Here's What to Do If You're One of Them

iStock.com/RoBeDeRo
iStock.com/RoBeDeRo

Another major data breach has compromised the personal information of up to 500 million people. Guests of Marriott International's Starwood Hotels—which includes hotel brands like Sheraton, Westin, W, Aloft, and St. Regis—who made reservations on or before September 10, 2018 are at risk, according to The Washington Post.

Marriott says that because the Starwood leak dates back all the way to 2014 (before Marriott International's acquisition of the company in 2016), the full extent of the breach isn't yet clear. However, we do know that the data that hackers were able to access from the Starwood Hotels reservation system involved more than just your preference for a queen- or king-sized bed.

The leak included names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, birthdays, gender, loyalty program account info, and reservation info, including arrival and departure dates. Though the credit card information on file was encrypted, the hotel chain can't guarantee that the hackers aren't able to decrypt those customers' card numbers and expiration dates. Roughly 327 million guests were involved with the wide-ranging leak, while a lesser number only had their names, addresses, email addresses, and some other limited information shared with hackers.

According to the MIT Technology Review, it's one of the biggest data thefts ever. So what are current and former Starwood guests supposed to do?

Beware of Phishing.

If you have stayed at one of Marriott's Starwood brands (and there are a lot of them), be on the lookout for an email from Marriott notifying you that your data might have been stolen. If you do receive an email, make sure that it's not a phishing attempt by someone looking to capitalize on the situation. Legitimate emails will come from starwoodhotels@email-marriott.com. "Please note that the email you may receive from us will not contain any attachments or request any information from you, and any links will only bring you back to this webpage," the Marriott page explaining the incident warns. (The company won't ask for your password or other information over the phone, either.)

Sign Up for Fraud Monitoring.

To help customers whose data was stolen, Marriott is offering a free year of fraud monitoring from WebWatcher. The program monitors sites where your personal information may be shared and alerts you if your data pops up. It offers reimbursement for legal costs and expenses associated with identity theft and access to a fraud specialist who can help you through the process of monitoring and protecting your data.

Watch Your Accounts.

Marriott is also encouraging guests to monitor their Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty accounts, change their passwords (use a password manager and two-factor authentication), be careful of phishing attempts, and, if they think their identity has been stolen, contact law enforcement.

Sign Up for Credit Alerts.

To be really safe, you may also want to place a credit alert with the major credit bureaus, which will make it harder for someone to open new accounts and lines of credit in your name.

Now Ear This: A New App Can Detect a Child's Ear Infection

iStock.com/Techin24
iStock.com/Techin24

Generally speaking, using an internet connection to diagnose a medical condition is rarely recommended. But technology is getting better at outpacing skepticism over handheld devices guiding decisions and suggesting treatment relating to health care. The most recent example is an app that promises to identify one of the key symptoms of ear infections in kids.

The Associated Press reports that researchers at the University of Washington are close to finalizing an app that would allow a parent to assess whether or not their child has an ear infection using their phone, some paper, and some soft noises. A small piece of paper is folded into a funnel shape and inserted into the ear canal to focus the app's sounds (which resemble bird chirps) toward the child’s ear. The app measures sound waves bouncing off the eardrum. If pus or fluid is present, the sound waves will be altered, indicating a possible infection. The parent would then receive a text from the app notifying them of the presence of buildup in the middle ear.

The University of Washington tested the efficacy of the app by evaluating roughly 50 patients scheduled to undergo ear surgery at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The app was able to identify fluid in patients' ears about 85 percent of the time. That’s roughly as well as traditional exams, which involve visual identification as well as specialized acoustic devices.

While the system looks promising, not all cases of fluid in the ear are the result of infections or require medical attention. Parents would need to evaluate other symptoms, such as fever, if they intend to use the app to decide whether or not to seek medical attention. It may prove most beneficial in children with persistent fluid accumulation, a condition that needs to be monitored over the course of months when deciding whether a drain tube needs to be placed. Checking for fluid at home would save both time and money compared to repeated visits to a physician.

The app does not yet have Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and there is no timetable for when it might be commercially available. If it passes muster, it would join a number of FDA-approved “smart” medical diagnostic tools, including the AliveKor CardiaBand for the Apple Watch, which conducts EKG monitoring for heart irregularities.

[h/t WGRZ]

Uber Passengers Can Now Shush Their Drivers with a Mute Button

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Even friendly and sociable people don't always feel like talking, especially if it's late, they're sad, or they're in the middle of an arduous trip. For customers of the ride-sharing service app Uber, there's now a way to terminate conversation with drivers. You simply push a button on your phone and request they stop talking.

This slightly dystopian feature is part of Uber Black, the app's premium interface for people looking for a ride in a luxury vehicle and drivers with top satisfaction ratings. If a passenger isn't in the mood for chatting, hitting "quiet preferred" on the app will notify the driver to stop speaking. They can also opt for "happy to chat" if they care to engage in conversation. It's part of a bundle of features that also allows users to ask for help with their luggage, request more time to get to the vehicle, or adjust the temperature inside the car.

The button is an attempt by Uber to address some of the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between driver and passenger for the service, which allows both parties to rate the other on the overall experience. Some passengers have felt that being uninterested in speaking to their driver might lead to a lower score.

The quiet button might eventually be rolled out to encompass all of Uber's platforms. If the idea of a human mute button is uncomfortable, passengers can also choose "no preference" and let conversation—or the lack of it—takes its natural course.

[h/t Vox]

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