by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
February 6, 2009
Online casino operators have had a number of obstacles to overcome in running a licensed and regulated industry. Like any other website that processes an individual’s financial information, internet casinos have become a target for cyberfraud and hackers. According to an article published in SC magazine, a media outlet dedicated to internet and IT security, a number of hackers have begun implemented bots disguised as players to foresee the odds in slots payout systems.
Information is pilfered from a number of scammer and “web-scraping” techniques that allow hackers to predict when a wager is more likely to turn a profit. The bots used are very similar to live player script and are therefore difficult for anti-collusion and bot-detection software to detect in online casinos.
“The hacker can use the bot to manipulate the odds to improve the winning margin,” said Guri Geva, regional director for Radware at Israel, Northern Europe and the UK. “It can also measure times so it can hit the site when it is at its busiest, going as undetected as possible.”
As IT technology advances, so too does the techniques discovered by internet hackers, and Geva predicts a major increase in the complexity of cyberfraud schemes. As such, he has suggested that online casino operators take measures to fully monitor and analyze player behavior in transparent real time. With the online casino industry expected to increase to a $125 billion market by 2015, it is sure to become a more common target for virtual pirates and malware.
“Webscraping is going on all the time,” said Geva. “It can steal information from a website, put the details on to another and redirect people to it. This can lead to fraud and even phishing, you could blacklist IP addresses but that would require a lot of time.”
With the increase of bot-usage, the online casino community is concerned that the issue may affect the way internet gambling is voted on in future legislation. One of the more active arguments against internet gambling is the risk it involves, including the ability for users to cheat using computer software.
The rising rates of attempted fraud should alerts governments that have currently criminalized online casino gambling, however, as it illustrates the need for heightened security and closer monitoring of the gambling establishments. While casino gamblers from several restricted locations continue to gambling in unlicensed and unregulated facilities, the appearance of bots may become all too common.
With issues like the Ultimate Bet scandal, where an employee had used software to view the hole cards of other poker players, a more strict set of guidelines would seem to be the best option in preventing online casino fraud.
Advocates continue to fight for the legalization of online casino gambling in the U.S., with pressure groups and representatives like Barney Frank that continue to propose legislation in its favor. It is still uncertain what the Obama administration’s stance is on internet gambling, but many hope a democratic majority may be easier to sway – especially in times of a global economic crisis.