My first experience with Marriott was at their hotel in Boston's Copley Place. It was 1986, and I was 10 years old. My mother was battling stage 4 breast cancer and she wanted to take a break from traveling to Baltimore for experimental treatments at Johns Hopkins. Instead, she wanted to experience my first flight and trip to a big city with me. When we arrived in the room, there was replica of the Prudential Tower, a big bowl of fruit, and a bottle of champagne with a note signed by the General Manager. When the bellhop opened the drapes, he unveiled a skyline so startling, it has lasted with me to this day.
Since that trip I’ve logged over 1,354 nights and 2,900 different visits to Marriott hotels for business or with my family. I have had some rough stays sure, but have been able to work through every challenge because I think of my relationship with Marriott as a partnership.
So when news broke last month that Marriott’s customer database had been compromised, I initially shared the same outrage and concern that about 500M other people probably had. However, my ire quickly turned to empathy for the friends I have made at Marriott properties over the years. It was going to be a pretty terrible day. Not because the company's market cap dropped 5%, or because senators were suggesting executives be jailed when such breaches occur. But because I know how much the Marriott family cares about their employees and their guests.
To be clear, customers have a right to their anger. Companies must do their utmost to uphold consumers' trust by taking appropriate measures to protect customer data. We all know that. But as we move into an era where cyber threats become the norm, consumers must also take ownership of protecting their own digital risks. We've been here before, learning to cope with new technological risks. Today, only the very few negligent people use a computer without anti-virus software. The same diligence and self-protection must extend to the digital channels individuals use most, particularly social media. Technology cuts both ways. It has made us more vulnerable to phishing attacks and misinformation, but it can also empower us to protect our most frequently used and accessed accounts. These accounts are often the keys to many others. As the Facebook breach earlier this year demonstrated, hacking one account can give attackers access to many others that use login information from the compromised account.
I've been a victim of corporate hacks before and no doubt I will be again. This event is no different than the numerous notifications I've received from other brand that have been breached. Is it okay to be numb to these types of cyber crimes? Absolutely not, but I will take responsibility for my own digital risk and proactively monitor my own digital properties. Our team designed the SafeGuardMe mobile app to do just that, put the power back into the hands of the user.
As I get ready to go to bed at the Minneapolis Marriott City Center I'll rest easy. Not because I changed my login information on MI.com or because I was gifted a credit monitoring service. But because there are ways for me to take charge of my own digital risk. Let's be honest, we're not turning back the clock, and social media isn't going anywhere. If anything, the world will continue to become even more connected. Instead of cowering or deleting everything, we have to move forward and do so without fear.