Greatest cyber-heist in history...

laptop locked
Should companies start storing their records under the mattress again?

Scottish tabloid, The Sunday Herald, has announced "the greatest cyber-heist in world history" - claiming that an Indian hacker stole a database with the details of eight million customers from a leading international hotel chain using a Trojan Horse program.

The report calculates that up to £2.8 billion could be scooped by wrong-doers on the basis that the average internet fraud costs the victim £356.

Best Western International begs to differ. The hotel group reckons ten customers were affected from just the one branch in Berlin, in whose cyberspace the hack took place. It also says that the FBI has been called in along with other international crime-fighting agencies.

Oh, those Russians

Technology editor for the Herald, Iain Bruce, says that the hacker accessed the personal information of all the customers who visited the 1,312 European-based hotels since 2007. His story went onto claim that the database was sold onto an underground network run by the Russian mafia.

Bruce has produced screen shots that appear to reveal the hotel's reservation system along with the guests' personal details accessed using a tool that was able to search records back to 2007. While Bruce is sticking to his story, he has offered no proof that millions of customers details have been compromised.

Substantiate that

Meanwhile, Best Western interprets his article as being "grossly unsubstantiated" and "largely erroneous." The chain claims it removes its guest details within a week of their departure though this is no guarantee that the information cannot be accessed with the right technology in the wrong hands.

TechRadar will keep you up to date in our bid to establish whether this really is "the greatest cyber-heist in world history." The relative infancy of the internet over the last five million years (see Evolution) suggests the tabloid is erring on the side of hyperbole.

With 4,200 branches worldwide, Best Western claims to be the largest hotel group in the world. As well as credit cards, it accepts payment in used notes.