Couple deletes Holiday Inn data for fun after ransomware attack fails

Intercontinental hotels Group - Image JHVE Photo/Shutterstock.com

A Vietnamese couple deleted Holiday Inn data from s computers after their ransomware attack failed, saying they did it for fun. 

The hackers, who contacted the BBC on Saturday, September 17, said they had deleted the data “for fun”.

According to the evidence provided by the pair they said they were able to access the computers of the Holiday Inn owners, International Hotels Group (IHG) with relative ease.

The group, which owns around 6,000 hotels, received numerous complaints in the week saying that people were having problems booking. The company initially responded by saying that the system was undergoing maintenance, before admitting that they were the subject of a hacking attempt.

Calling themselves TeaPea, the hackers used an encrypted Telegram message to contact the BBC. They provided images as evidence of the hack, images that the company has confirmed are genuine.

The images show that the hackers gained access to servers, emails and Microsoft Teams chats, but were unable to use that access to install ransomware as the company isolated servers before they could so.

Instead the couple who deleted the Holiday Inn data said: “Our attack was originally planned to be a ransomware but the company’s IT team kept isolating servers before we had a chance to deploy it, so we thought to have some funny [sic]. We did a wiper attack instead.

“We don’t feel guilty, really. We prefer to have a legal job here in Vietnam but the wage is an average $300 (€300) per month. I’m sure our hack won’t hurt the company a lot.”

IHG says customer-facing systems are returning to normal although disruptions continue to be experienced as the company works to rebuild the data. Although the hackers say they took no data that has yet to be confirmed by IHG.

The hackers said they gained access to IHG’s internal IT network by tricking an employee into downloading a malicious piece of software, which gave them access. After that, they were able to use weak passwords to access the systems.

A spokeswoman for IHG told the BBC that password vault details were secure. She went on to say they had to evade “multiple layers of security”, adding that “IHG employs a defence-in-depth strategy to information security that leverages many modern security solutions.”

The incident in which the couple deletes Holiday Inn data shows how malicious hackers can be and just how difficult it can be to protect company systems.


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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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