Security Experts:

Payment Card Breach Hits 20 Hotels Operated by HEI

HEI Hotels & Resorts informed customers on Sunday that 20 of the hotels it operates in the United States are affected by a security breach involving payment card information.

HEI operates more than 50 hotels in the US, including Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, IHG Intercontinental and Hyatt properties. The data breach affects hotels in Florida, Texas, Illinois, California, Vermont, Tennessee, Virginia, Minnesota, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

According to the company, the earliest intrusions date back to March 2015, but in many cases the breach appears to have taken place in December 2015. Cleanup operations were conducted between April and June.

HEI learned of the breach from its payment card processor. The company launched an extensive forensic investigation, which led to the discovery of point-of-sale (PoS) malware designed to capture payment card data in real time as it was being processed.

The malware may have stolen information such as names, card numbers, expiration dates and verification codes. HEI says it does not collect payment card PINs and social security numbers. The company has assured customers that its systems have been cleaned up and that it’s safe to use payment cards at its properties.

“After learning of the incident, we promptly took steps to contain the incident and secure our systems. This included transitioning payment card processing to a stand-alone system that is completely separated from the rest of our network and disabling the malware and have reconfigured our point-of-sale and payment card processing systems to enhance the security of these systems,” HEI said in a statement.

While it’s unclear how many individuals are affected by the breach, Reuters has learned that roughly 8,000 transactions were made at the Hyatt Centric Santa Barbara hotel in California and approximately 12,800 transactions at the Intercontinental in Tampa, Florida, in the malware infection timeframe.

News of the breach comes just months after Starwood, Hilton and Hyatt reported finding malware on PoS systems. Several hotel chains have been targeted recently by cybercriminals, including Kimpton, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas and Omni Hotels.

Related: MICROS Hackers Targeted Five Other PoS Vendors

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Eduard Kovacs (@EduardKovacs) is a contributing editor at SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.