Holiday Inn parent company hacked with weak password

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If you’ve ever wondered why it’s necessary to have a strong password, this recent issue is the reason. Intercontinental Hotels Group, the parent company of Holiday Inn and other hotel chains, has been hacked, and a Vietnamese couple are claiming responsibility for deleting the chain’s data, saying they did it via a password of a week.

ICG problem

Intercontinental Hotels Group (ICG) customers began reporting room booking and check-in errors on September 5. IHG responded on social media and said it was “undergoing system maintenance”.

The hotel chain issued an announcement to investors on September 6, which said that part of its system had been “subjected to unauthorized activity”. He reported that booking channels and other apps had been disrupted since the day before.

Holiday Inn Ihg hacked booking site

ICG said it responded to the hack by implementing its response plans and notifying authorities, adding that it was working on the matter with technology specialists. ICG also said it supports hotel owners and operators and that its hotels are still operating and taking reservations.

Couple claim responsibility for hack

A Vietnamese couple came forward and admitted to BBC that they were behind the ICG cyberattack, but deleting a large amount of data was not the original plan. Initially, the plan was to launch a ransomware attack after gaining access to company databases via a very weak password: “Qwerty1234”.

The couple, surname TeaPea, reached out to the BBC via Telegram and provided screenshots, which IHG has confirmed to be genuine, which showed them accessing ICG’s Outlook emails, Microsoft chats Teams and server directories.

The hackers explained, “Our attack was originally planned to be ransomware, but the company’s IT team continued to isolate the servers before we had a chance to deploy it, so we thought we had [sic]. We did a wiper attack instead.

TeaPea also claimed that they only make around $300 a month, so they don’t feel guilty for doing anything illegal. They don’t believe their actions hurt hotels so much. No Customer Data has been removed from the Services.

They were able to gain access to IHG’s internal computer network through malware that an unwitting employee downloaded from an email. He was also able to break into the company’s 2FA system. Once inside the server, they found the login credentials for the internal password vault.

ICG systems return to normal

ICG later reported that while Holiday Inn and its other services were still down, systems were returning to normal after being hacked.

The hotel chain’s spokeswoman defended its security practices, saying that for hackers to gain access to its systems, they had to pass “multiple layers of security”, adding: “IHG uses a defense-in-depth strategy for security information that relies on many modern security solutions.

But the point remains: there is a weakness somewhere in the systems of Holiday Inn and other hotel chains for sensitive information to be hacked. “Qwerty1234” appears on lists of common passwords and is not safe to use. Also, although it has lowercase and uppercase letters and numbers, it has no symbols. If IHG used it as a password, it was not a “defense-in-depth strategy”.

Find out how Apple, Google and Microsoft eliminate the password problem with “passkey”.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons All screenshots by Laura Tucker

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