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Online Casinos Threatened by Cyberextortionists
Online gambling sites are
betting on tighter security after a recent wave of computer attacks from
cyberextortionists plunged several into darkness.
Shadowy hackers demand $20,000 to $50,000 for protection from
distributed denial-of-service attacks, which flood a Web site with data
so that it is overloaded.
BetWWTS.com in Antigua was forced to pay $30,000 when hackers shuttered
its site and thousands of its customers couldn’t place wagers worth an
estimated $5 million, CEO Simon Noble says.
It’s one of the lucky ones. Since the attacks started a few months ago,
a handful of smaller operations have gone out of business or abandoned
Web sites in favor of phones to avoid the problem.
"These sites rely on transactions with clients every few seconds. You
disrupt that, and you’ve got major problems," says Michael Caselli,
editor of Online Casino News. "A bank, by comparison, can shut down its
site for an hour or two."
Now, online gambling operators are bracing for a new batch of threats
for college basketball’s March Madness tournament, which starts next
Online gambling sites are fertile territory for extortionists. Many of
the approximately 2,000 sites are vulnerable to hacking attacks and have
little legal recourse security experts say.
Great Britain’s National Hi-Tech Crime Unit, which is investigating
cases with other law-enforcement agencies, says the problem appears to
be confined to gaming sites. But some security experts fear it could
spread to banking and other industries that are reluctant to report
The FBI had no comment.
International gambling sites raked in $5.7 billion last year, with
projections of $11.6 billion in 2006, says Christiansen Capital
Advisors, a New York consulting firm that studies the gaming industry.
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