Marriott's Starwood Data Breach Affects 500 Million People. Here's What to Do If You're One of Them

iStock.com/RoBeDeRo
iStock.com/RoBeDeRo

Another major data breach has compromised the personal information of up to 500 million people. Guests of Marriott International's Starwood Hotels—which includes hotel brands like Sheraton, Westin, W, Aloft, and St. Regis—who made reservations on or before September 10, 2018 are at risk, according to The Washington Post.

Marriott says that because the Starwood leak dates back all the way to 2014 (before Marriott International's acquisition of the company in 2016), the full extent of the breach isn't yet clear. However, we do know that the data that hackers were able to access from the Starwood Hotels reservation system involved more than just your preference for a queen- or king-sized bed.

The leak included names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, birthdays, gender, loyalty program account info, and reservation info, including arrival and departure dates. Though the credit card information on file was encrypted, the hotel chain can't guarantee that the hackers aren't able to decrypt those customers' card numbers and expiration dates. Roughly 327 million guests were involved with the wide-ranging leak, while a lesser number only had their names, addresses, email addresses, and some other limited information shared with hackers.

According to the MIT Technology Review, it's one of the biggest data thefts ever. So what are current and former Starwood guests supposed to do?

Beware of Phishing.

If you have stayed at one of Marriott's Starwood brands (and there are a lot of them), be on the lookout for an email from Marriott notifying you that your data might have been stolen. If you do receive an email, make sure that it's not a phishing attempt by someone looking to capitalize on the situation. Legitimate emails will come from starwoodhotels@email-marriott.com. "Please note that the email you may receive from us will not contain any attachments or request any information from you, and any links will only bring you back to this webpage," the Marriott page explaining the incident warns. (The company won't ask for your password or other information over the phone, either.)

Sign Up for Fraud Monitoring.

To help customers whose data was stolen, Marriott is offering a free year of fraud monitoring from WebWatcher. The program monitors sites where your personal information may be shared and alerts you if your data pops up. It offers reimbursement for legal costs and expenses associated with identity theft and access to a fraud specialist who can help you through the process of monitoring and protecting your data.

Watch Your Accounts.

Marriott is also encouraging guests to monitor their Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty accounts, change their passwords (use a password manager and two-factor authentication), be careful of phishing attempts, and, if they think their identity has been stolen, contact law enforcement.

Sign Up for Credit Alerts.

To be really safe, you may also want to place a credit alert with the major credit bureaus, which will make it harder for someone to open new accounts and lines of credit in your name.

This Smart Accessory Converts Your Instant Pot Into an Air Fryer

Amazon
Amazon

If you can make a recipe in a slow cooker, Dutch oven, or rice cooker, you can likely adapt it for an Instant Pot. Now, this all-in-one cooker can be converted into an air fryer with one handy accessory.

This Instant Pot air fryer lid—currently available on Amazon for $80—adds six new cooking functions to your 6-quart Instant Pot. You can select the air fry setting to get food hot and crispy fast, using as little as 2 tablespoons of oil. Other options include roast, bake, broil, dehydrate, and reheat.

Many dishes you would prepare in the oven or on the stovetop can be made in your Instant Pot when you switch out the lids. Chicken wings, French fries, and onion rings are just a few of the possibilities mentioned in the product description. And if you're used to frying being a hot, arduous process, this lid works without consuming a ton of energy or heating up your kitchen.

The lid comes with a multi-level air fry basket, a broiling and dehydrating tray, and a protective pad and storage cover. Check it out on Amazon.

For more clever ways to use your Instant Pot, take a look at these recipes.

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Thomas Edison’s First Patented Invention—a Voting Machine for Congress—Was a Total Flop

Sadly, Congress voted 'No' on using Thomas Edison's voting machine.
Sadly, Congress voted 'No' on using Thomas Edison's voting machine.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

On June 1, 1869, Thomas Edison patented his very first invention: a voting machine meant for Congress.

According to Rutgers University’s Thomas A. Edison Papers Project, the 22-year-old inventor might’ve been inspired to design the device after newspaper reports announced that both the New York state legislature and the city council of Washington, D.C., were investigating means of automating their ballot process. At the time, legislators voted by calling out “Yea” or “Nay” (or something of that nature), and a clerk jotted down their responses one by one.

Edison’s “electrographic vote-recorder” had the names of all the voters listed twice: in a “Yes” column on one side, and a “No” column on the other. When a person flipped a switch to indicate their vote, the machine would transmit the signal through an electric current and mark their name in the corresponding column, while keeping track of the total tally of votes on a dial. After everyone had voted, an attendant would place a sheet of chemically treated paper on top of the columns and press down on it with a metallic roller, imprinting the paper with the results.

thomas edison electrographic vote-recorder patent 1869
The sketch that accompanied Edison's patent.
U.S. Patent 0,090,646, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A telegraph operator named Dewitt Roberts invested $100—about $1754 in today's dollars, according to Tech Times—in the device and set off for an exhibition on Capitol Hill. Alas, members of Congress were completely uninterested, and the committee chairman in charge of deciding its fate declared that “if there is any invention on earth that we don't want down here, that is it.”

The committee didn’t think the vote-recorder streamlined the process enough to be useful, but it’s possible they weren’t too keen on speeding things up in the first place. If the officials didn’t voice their votes aloud, there wouldn’t be any opportunity to filibuster policies or persuade each other to switch their stances—an integral part of congressional proceedings.

Edison, of course, recovered from his first flop. He went on to invent (or at least improve upon) the light bulb, create the cat video, and devise many more notable creations.