The InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) were hit by a payment card breach at some 1,175 of their franchise hotels, virtually all of which are based in the USA. This breach occurred between September 29th 2016 and December 29th 2016 and was as a result of malicious software (malware) somehow being installed on systems that were used by Front Desks at the hotels in question.
The malware was specifically designed to carry out the payment card breach, by looking for cardholder name, cardholder number, expiry date, etc. when the card was being swiped. Now this sounds similar to the skimming devices that would be used by dodgy waiters in a restaurant, but it’s actually a bit more advanced than that because it was so widespread and went undetected for 3 months.
According to the report, IHG began investigating the incident in December and it wasn’t until March 2017 that they had completed the investigation and confirmed that the malware had been removed. They were sure about the 29th December date, because they appear to have completed a roll out of a secure payment system by then.
So could this type of payment card breach occur in other hotels/businesses that take payment card details? Probably.
What can you do to protect yourself from this type of threat? There is no way to protect yourself in advance in this type of situation, so you really should keep a close eye on your credit/debit card account through on-line banking. Report any suspicious transactions to your payment card issuer – there should be a telephone number on the back of the card which you can ring to report such transactions.
This was a pretty sophisticated hack. You still need to be aware of the more simple attempts to steal your credit/debit card information.
- Never let a restaurant worker take your card out of your sight
- Always cover the keypad with your free hand when typing in the PIN for your card on any device.
- Before you insert your card into an ATM, grip the surround of the card slot and give it a reasonable pull to see if it comes away. If it does, leave the dodgy card slot on the ground, then walk away and report the issue to the bank immediately. Check out this video for how to do this.
- In a shop, where the card terminal is on a stand on the counter, check it carefully before inserting your card. Make sure that the keypad on the terminal fits perfectly, because as this video shows, it is so quick and easy to fit a dodgy keypad.