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The massive data breach revealed by Marriott International sheds light on what hackers often do with the personal data they steal, said Long Lu, a cybersecurity expert at Northeastern. Hackers, he said, frequently sell people's names, email addresses, and other personal information to spammers who, in turn, use it steal people's identities or trick people into installing harmful software or buying fake merchandise.
"If you sell a large set of email addresses, along with names or other personal information, that's like a treasure trove for spammers," said Lu, an assistant professor in the College of Computer and Information Science. "Not only do they know what are the valid email addresses that they can send to, but they also have some basic information they can use to better target these email address owners."
Marriott - World - Hotel - Chain - Week
Marriott, the world's largest hotel chain, said last week that its Starwood guest reservation database has been hacked and that the personal information of up to 500 million guests had been exposed. The majority of the victims in the Marriott breach, believed to be 317 million people, had a combination of their names, addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, gender, email addresses, and reservation information stolen.
The methods used to hack the reservation system, the ability of Marriott to protect itself against breaches, and how the stolen data could be used all remain unclear. But Lu said that the hack exemplifies...
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