Marriott now lets you check if you’re a victim of the Starwood hack

Hotel chain giant Marriott will now let you check if you’re a victim of the Starwood hack.

The company confirmed to TechCrunch that it has put in place “a mechanism to enable guests to look up individual passport numbers to see if they were included in the set of unencrypted passport numbers.” That follows a statement last month from the company confirming that five million unencrypted passport numbers were stolen in the data breach last year.

The checker, hosted by security firm OneTrust, will ask for some personal information, like your name, email address, as well as the last six-digits of your passport number.

Marriott says data on “fewer than 383 million unique guests” was stolen in the data breach, revealed in September, including guest names, postal addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, genders, email addresses and reservation information. Later it transpired that more than 20 million encrypted passport numbers were also stolen, along with 8.6 million unique payment card numbers. Marriott said only 354,000 cards were active and unexpired at the time of the breach in September.

Opening up the checker to the wider public is a bright spot in what’s been a fairly atrocious incident recovery by Marriott since the breach. The company’s initial response was plagued with hiccups and missteps that many security experts stepped in to fill in the gaps at their own expense.

The checker won’t kick back a result straight away — you’ll have to wait for a response — and Marriott doesn’t say how long that’ll take. There is a certain irony in having to turn over your own data — not least to a third-party — to be told if you’re a victim of a breach. It’s literally the last thing any breach victim wants to do: hand over even their more of their personal information. But that’s the world we’re living in, and everything is terrible.

Use the checker at your own risk.

Deploy the space harpoon

Watch out, starwhales. There’s a new weapon for the interstellar dwellers whom you threaten with your planet-crushing gigaflippers, undergoing testing as we speak. This small-scale version may only be good for removing dangerous orbital debris, but in time it will pierce your hypercarbon hides and irredeemable sun-hearts.

Literally a space harpoon. (Credit: Airbus)

However, it would be irresponsible of me to speculate beyond what is possible today with the technology, so let a summary of the harpoon’s present capabilities suffice.

The space harpoon is part of the RemoveDEBRIS project, a multi-organization European effort to create and test methods of reducing space debris. There are thousands of little pieces of who knows what clogging up our orbital neighborhood, ranging in size from microscopic to potentially catastrophic.

There are as many ways to take down these rogue items as there are sizes and shapes of space junk; perhaps it’s enough to use a laser to edge a small piece down toward orbital decay, but larger items require more hands-on solutions. And seemingly all nautical in origin: RemoveDEBRIS has a net, a sail and a harpoon. No cannon?

You can see how the three items are meant to operate here:

The harpoon is meant for larger targets, for example full-size satellites that have malfunctioned and are drifting from their orbit. A simple mass driver could knock them toward the Earth, but capturing them and controlling descent is a more controlled technique.

While an ordinary harpoon would simply be hurled by the likes of Queequeg or Dagoo, in space it’s a bit different. Sadly it’s impractical to suit up a harpooner for EVA missions. So the whole thing has to be automated. Fortunately the organization is also testing computer vision systems that can identify and track targets. From there it’s just a matter of firing the harpoon at it and reeling it in, which is what the satellite demonstrated today.

This Airbus-designed little item is much like a toggling harpoon, which has a piece that flips out once it pierces the target. Obviously it’s a single-use device, but it’s not particularly large and several could be deployed on different interception orbits at once. Once reeled in, a drag sail (seen in the video above) could be deployed to hasten reentry. The whole thing could be done with little or no propellant, which greatly simplifies operation.

Obviously it’s not yet a threat to the starwhales. But we’ll get there. We’ll get those monsters good one day.