Following a company-wide database assessment, Marriott concluded on November 19 the breach occurred on Starwood's network and that unauthorized activity has taken place on its servers since 2014, which included duplicating and encrypting data.
The recent data breach affecting millions of guests of the Marriott hotel chain was reportedly the work of a Chinese cyberespionage campaign, officials have claimed.
Private investigators involved in a probe into the breach had previously discovered hacking tools, techniques and procedures that were used in earlier cyberattacks that have been linked to Chinese hackers.
The official said investigators were particularly concerned about the data breach because Marriott is used frequently by the U.S. military and government agencies.
The US is clamping down on what it sees as a sustained attack on its government and companies and is expected to announce new charges this week against hackers from China's military and intelligence services. Chinese officials denied knowing anything about the hacking being done on behalf of any government agency, according to the Times. While authorities caution their findings are still inconclusive, they say the methods of the hackers, along with a variety of clues related to the hack, tend to suggest it was state-sponsored, which is yet another headache in the already fraught relations between the U.S. and China.
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The spies stole passport numbers of up to 327 million people - many of whom stayed at Sheraton, Westin and W hotels and at other Starwood-branded properties.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the country's foreign ministry, told reporters last week: "China firmly opposes all forms of cyber attack and cracks down on it in accordance with the law".
This finger pointing at China comes at a time when the USA has said it's facing increasing amours of attacks from the pseudo-socialist nation.
After details regarding the data breach were made public, a class-action lawsuit against Marriott was filed seeking $12.5bn in damages on behalf of the affected customers.