According to a United Nations report, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been a 600% rise in cybercrime with much of it directed against the growing video and online casino gaming industries. Hackers are becoming more savvy and more creative in attacking gaming platforms, sites’ data and customers’ personal information.
The industry is attempting to protect itself with black hats and white hats competing for the upper hand.
In recent years there have been huge data breaches that have affected major gaming operators around the world. Companies including Zynga, Xbox360, DOTA2, Nintendo and Marriott have all suffered breaches -- their problems are small by comparison to Yahoo which saw 3 billion accounts compromised by a 2013 data breach.
Gaming sites are big targets for hackers who target such sites because, once they open the user database, they can access a wide range of sensitive data including names, addresses, email addresses, passwords and financial details. Using information about a person’s credit card or online ebank the hacker can start pulling out money to his own benefit.
Companies also suffer from data breaches. In addition to the negative PR their reputation tanks, they can face fines and demands for the return of stolen funds and even drops in valuations.
Online casinos are a target because they meet the criteria of what hackers are looking for – a site, like a bank or an online retailer, that is full of financial data. Top online casinos have state-of-the-art security in place so the financial data is encrypted and cannot be accessed by third parties. The problems arise with illegal or disreputable casinos which have inadequate player protections.
The problem with such casinos, including illegal casino sites, was highlighted when 3.3 million Thai online casino players had their accounts hacked in 2019 while playing at an illegal casino. Licensed online casinos started to lobby for governments to amend legislation so that online gambling would be better regulated and citizens wouldn’t be pushed towards illegal sites but the process is ongoing.
White Hats to the Rescue
The online gaming industry is turning to white-hat hackers to protect their platforms and their customers. White-hatters – people who were once hackers themselves and how to use their knowledge to protect people online -- employ specialized skills that allow them to identify weaknesses in a network that a hacker might use to enter the system. White hat hackers are often people who once hacked into systems for criminal purposes and now use their knowledge of these methods to keep other hackers at bay.
An online casino that employs the services of a white hat hacker can offer its customers a safer gaming experience. The white-hatters focus on “pentesting” which tests sites to assess risks and find vulnerabilities within the systems.
They operate by using social engineering to identify human weaknesses in a system, locating weaknesses in the platform’s defenses and endpoints, searching for vulnerabilities within the operator’s IT infrastructure and luring cybercriminals to launch attacks so that they can gain information about the attackers and thwart their efforts. Throughout the process they maintain and patch systems to ensure that security is maintained.
A large percentage of attacks on online gaming sites and their customers aims to divert funds to the hacker. To this end, many casinos have been switching to cyber currency payment methods which are difficult for hackers to access.
The other types of payment methods – ewallets, echecks, wire transfers and credit and debit cards are now encrypted by both the payment companies and by the online casinos. This double-end encryption has proven effective in keeping online transfers of funds secure.
Online casinos can only do so much – the customer must also protect him/herself when playing on an online platform. Some suggested techniques for keeping your account safe include:
It’s a good idea to use a virtual private network when you conduct any financial transaction online. This is especially important when you’re playing games and making a deposit, purchasing a loot box or other in-game items or connecting to your Steam account. You need to take precautions to make sure that no one sees your financial details.
A VPN will mask your identity and location regardless of whether you are conducting a transaction with a land-based or an offshore venue.
Another way to protect your money is to set a limit on how much you can deposit or withdraw. That way, if you do get hacked, the hacker can’t pull out the entire sum of your account.
One of the biggest tools that a hacker has in his arsenal involves emails. Hackers embed viruses and Trojan horses in email links and attachments. If you click on the link or attachment you risk infecting your computer with a virus or opening a website that can then attack your device and steal your personal information and passwords.
It’s important to be very wary about links and attachments that you click in emails. Don’t click on a link or an attachment unless it’s from a trusted source and unless it’s logical that the contact would be sending something like that to you.
Similarly, if you get an email from your bank, a company like Amazon or eBay or a casino entertainment site where you have an account, a government office, etc., don’t click on the link or attachment. Go to your account page on the relevant website and open the letter which will be archived in your account. If there’s no letter there, chances are that the letter is bogus.
Remember, government offices like the Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Post Office still send notices through snail mail, not through email. If you have doubts about an email, call the relevant office to confirm the message.
When you play online it’s a good idea to use a VPN and use unrelated usernames and passwords to keep your true identity a secret. The VPN, as mentioned, reduces the chances of you opening a virus when you play at an online casino. It also protects your identity and location. Using a VPN will also make it easier for you to access overseas services.
Keeping yourself safe online is the first step to enjoying a rewarding online gaming experience.