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.

Apple Wants to Show Off Your Best Night Mode Photos as Part of a New Campaign

Austin Mann, Apple
Austin Mann, Apple

Calling all aspiring photographers who nabbed an iPhone 11 for the express purpose of trying out its fancy camera capabilities: It’s time for your night mode photos to see the light of day.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Apple is currently hosting a competition to find the best night mode photos taken on an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max. You can submit your photos through January 29, after which a carefully selected team of experts will evaluate all submissions and announce the five winning images on March 4.

Judges include Arem Duplessis, the former design director of The New York Times Magazine; Darren Soh, an award-winning photographer from Singapore; Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer to shoot the cover of American Vogue (his subject, rather memorably, was Beyoncé); and several other esteemed members of the industry.

golden gate bridge shot on iphone 11
The Golden Gate Bridge, shot on an iPhone 11 Pro.
Jude Allen, Apple

In addition to appearing on Apple’s homepage and Instagram (which has more than 21 million followers), the photos could also be featured in digital campaigns, Apple stores, third-party photo exhibitions, or even on physical billboards. In addition to all the exposure, the winners will be paid a licensing fee in exchange for granting the company complete freedom to use their work for one year.

To submit your shots, you can either share them on a public Instagram, Twitter, or Weibo account with the hashtags #ShotoniPhone and #NightmodeChallenge, or email your images to shotoniphone@apple.com—just be sure to title your files in this format: ‘firstname_lastname_nightmode_iPhonemodel.’

If you’re new to the iPhone 11 and aren’t quite sure how to snap photos in night mode, it’s easier than you might realize. The feature comes on automatically in dim or dark places and decides on a capture time for you (which you can always adjust). And if you think editing your photos afterward will increase your chances of winning the competition, that’s fine, too: Apple will accept photos edited in the app or even with non-Apple software.

You might want to avoid capturing the Eiffel Tower after dark, however—here’s why.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

This Smart Speaker Is Designed to Help You Learn Chinese

Maybe
Maybe

This latest in smart speaker technology isn’t designed to turn on your Wi-Fi-connected lights or help you figure out a wine pairing. Lily, a new smart speaker now available on Indiegogo, can help you learn Chinese writing and speaking “faster than anything on the market,” according to its creators.

The voice-controlled gadget is equipped with artificial intelligence that allows it to engage in real-time conversations, so beginning to advanced students can learn to speak the Chinese language Mandarin. It can correct pronunciation, perform translations, and help you learn vocabulary through interactive games, too. It helps you learn to write with an associated app where you can practice using both Pinyin and Chinese characters. Lily’s curriculum can also prepare you for the HSK Chinese proficiency exams necessary to work or study in China.

A Lily speaker conversation illustrated with text bubbles that read 'Hey Lily, how do I introduce myself?' and '你好,你叫什麼名字'
Maybe

Designed by the language-learning company Maybe—which is based in San Francisco and Shenzhen—with Chinese tutors, the AI is engineered to recognize different accents, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect.

Language learning is all about repetition, and unless you live in an area with a large Chinese population, you may not have much opportunity to practice your Mandarin in everyday life. A smart speaker like Lily can provide the next best thing by creating an immersion environment for you at home, putting it a step ahead of other language-learning apps like DuoLingo.

It’s currently only in the prototype stage, but it’s scheduled to ship by April 2020. As for other languages, the Lily team says that they hope to release software updates in the future that could give the speaker French and Spanish capabilities. (Once you have the speaker, you’ll be able to download any other languages that are released—you won’t have to buy a whole other language-specific speaker.)

The smart speakers start at $229 for early-bird buyers, which may seem like a significant investment, until you start looking at the prices of even a few weeks of private language classes. Get yourself one on Indiegogo. And don't worry about it matching your home decor—it comes in red, white, black, blue, teal, and pink.

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