DDoS assaults accompanied by attempts to extort money from operators
State and federal authorities in New Jersey are investigating cyber-attacks launched on four Atlantic City online casino gaming websites late last week, in which criminals orchestrating a Distributed Denial of Service assault demanded a Bitcoin ransom as protection against further attacks.
New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck said the attack was launched Thursday, just before the long July 4th holiday weekend, and continued through Sunday.
"At least four casinos were impacted and experienced downtime," he told the publication NJ.com, advising that the assaults lasted for 30 minutes. "We're continuing to monitor."
The brief attacks were followed by threats of a more powerful and sustained attack, which would be launched within 24 hours unless a Bitcoin (an anonymous virtual currency difficult to track) payment was made. The amount of Bitcoin demanded was not disclosed.
Rebuck commented that such an attack carried the potential to not only negatively impact the targeted online casinos, but also all businesses in Atlantic City who share the same internet service provider.
Six Atlantic City casinos are already offering online gambling, with Borgata operating four online gambling sites: Borgatacasino.com, Borgatapoker.com, NJ.Partypoker.com and Palacasino.com. Caesars operates six online sites under two separate licenses, whilst Golden Nugget AC has three online sites, the Tropicana two sites and Resorts Casino one site.
The anonymous cyber-attackers are now being hunted by state and federal agencies that include the Division of Gaming Enforcement, the State Police, the FBI and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Industry observers have noted that this is not the first time a cyber-attack has been mounted on gambling companies, recalling in particular a massive attack targeting the Las Vegas Sands group in Las Vegas in 2014.
That assault "shut down PCs and servers in a cascading IT catastrophe", and it was the belief of federal officials that it emanated from Iran, one source recalled.
David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, told NJ.com that online gaming sites in the United States have not yet become a major target of hackers.
"It happens quite a bit offshore," he said, adding that often there is a ransom demand attached.
Online wagering remains a small percentage of total New Jersey gambling revenue, NJ.com notes. Online casinos won $12.5 million in May 2015.
Director Rebuck did not identify the sites that were attacked, but said the operators believe they know who is responsible.
"He's a known actor. He's done this before," he said, without commenting further.
Online Casino News Courtesy of Infopowa