Marriott Responds To Internet Privacy Issue

Last week we reported that a Marriott Courtyard in New York might be engaging in some less than above-board Internet marketing practices. At the time, Marriott assured Gadling that they were looking into the issue, stating, “This is not a Marriott-endorsed protocol and we are working to investigate the issue.”

It looks like they’ve done some more digging, as an emailed statement to the New York Times indicated that, “unbeknownst to the hotel, the Internet service provider (ISP) was utilizing functionality that allowed advertising to be pushed to the end user. The ISP has assured the hotel that this functionality has now been disabled.”

We spoke also with Justin Watt, the guest who noticed the issue, who says that he received the same email press statement shared with the public.

“I feel like their response could have been more transparent and information dense,” he wrote in an email to Gadling today, and indicates that he updated his original blog post to state the following:

What bugs me about their response is that the device required to do this type of on-the-fly JavaScript injection of HTML is both rare and expensive. It requires specialized hardware (like the RG Nets’ RXG-A8) starting at a cost of $10,000. In other words, this hardware was procured precisely for the purpose of perpetrating this kind of attack… the optimal solution to this snafu wasn’t simply that “we’ve disabled the functionality”-it has to be “we’ve removed/replaced the offensive hardware”. Nothing less is sufficient. Otherwise, what’s to stop someone from accidentally (or otherwise) re-enabling it later?

Marriott has assured users that “at no time was data security ever at risk,” but the question is, should they be more transparent in sharing their fixes to the issue?

Craigslist user scams New York Times writer in London

Being victimized by internet scam artists isn’t hearsay–it’s happening all over, to all kinds of people, and all of the time. New York Times writer, Seth Kugel, published his personal testimony yesterday–a testimony of innocent trip-planning gone wrong.

While organizing his pending trip to London, Kugel found himself on Craigslist looking for attractive sublets in good neighborhoods. When he came across a Notting Hill studio available for a seemingly fair price (around $73 a night), he emailed the address in the ad and was responded to right away.

When the respondent requested that Kugel wire the money directly to his bank account, red flags should have been waving wildly in his face. But in Kugel’s defense, he’d recently lived in Brazil for two years; a country he claims utilizes wire transfers for even everyday expenses, like medical bills.

But he was duped. And that’s really all there is to it. Myriad are the ways in which internet scammers trick users out of their money, but it sure seems like accommodations, be them temporary or ostensibly permanent, are among scam artists’ favorite lures.

The good news? Kugel pieced together an insightful and resourceful list of ways in which we all can better avoid being scammed. You should read it here.

[photo by Elizabeth Seward]

Internet at sea: It’s not just the price to worry about

When we think of using the Internet on a cruise the first word that usually comes to mind is “price.” Using the Internet can be expensive on board cruise ships. But of equal or greater concern should be security. Identity thieves are everywhere, even at sea, waiting for us to slip up and give them the opportunity to invade our privacy. Here are some tips for being secure using the Internet at sea.

Using your laptop
When using a wireless network on a cruise, first make sure you are actually using the ship’s network by asking a crew member for the specific names of the ship’s legitimate networks so you recognize them when you connect.

Anytime you enter a password, even for web mail or Face book through what appears to be the ship’s login screen, verify that you have a secure connection in the browser address bar. Look for https:// (the “s” is for secure) and the locked security padlock icon.

Better yet, change your password before leaving home to one just for the cruise. Your booking number is not a bad idea but not your cabin number where would-be thieves on board could find you later is not. Be sure to change back after you get home.

Internet Cafe computers
“If you’re using a computer in a ship’s Internet cafe, take extra care with your login and password information” says, a company specializing in digital security. They advise organizing for security protection before traveling, using one-time passwords, smart cards or USB tokens for added security.

Also, be sure there is virus software on those Internet cafe machines and that it works. Look for a familiar name like McAfee or Symantec and no red flags or alerts that something is wrong before using one of their machines.

Be sure to clear the “Remember My Passwords” check box if it appears and when you’re done with your Internet session, clear your browsing history at Internet Explorer/Tools/Internet Options/Delete Browsing History.

Oh, and about that pricey Internet package? You’ll probably have to just live with that. But for making cell phone calls, there’s a new plan from AT&T that can help with that. Called “Cruise Ship Passport“, the new plan for AT&T customers discounts rates at sea and offers 15 minutes of voice and 15 messages (text, picture or video) along with a reduced overage rate.

Flickr photo by Jose Goulao