Hackers said to have left clues that implicate China in Marriott breach

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According to the Times, the Department of Justice will soon announce indictments against Chinese hackers.

The data breach that exposed personal data of around 500 million guests of the hotel chain is believed to part of a Chinese state-run espionage operation, according to multiple sources briefed on the USA government's investigation that spoke with the and.

USA investigators reportedly believe Chinese state hackers are behind the attack, which began four years ago.

The Times writes that the Marriott is the top hotel provider for American government and military personnel. Besides the information they swiped from Marriott over the last four years, the hackers also reportedly obtained data from health insurers including Anthem and "the security clearance files of millions more Americans" as part of the effort, the report notes.

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The report comes amid growing tensions between the United States and China.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that China was behind a massive theft of personal information from the world's largest hotel chain. The passport data, which is not often collected in data breaches, likely was a particularly valuable find for the hackers.

If investigators confirm that China was behind the attack, that could complicate already tense relations between Washington and Beijing, amid an ongoing tariff dispute and U.S. accusations of Chinese espionage and the theft of trade secrets. This time it's being accused of carrying out the Marriott data breach, according to the New York Times. The U.S. requested that Canada detain Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou, of Huawei, the company founded by her father.

Marriott acquired Starwood, which includes such brands as Sheraton, W Hotels and St. Regis, in 2016.

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It uncovered the breach in September and the Federal Bureau of Investigation is understood to be investigating the matter.

Priscilla Moriuchi of Recorded Future, an East Asia specialist who left the National Security Agency last year after a 12-year career, cautioned that no one has put out any actual data or indicators showing Chinese state actor involvement in the Marriott intrusion.

A Marriott spokeswoman said it had "no information about the cause of this incident" and hadn't speculated about the attacker's identity.

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