Hackers start to target online gamblers (englisch)

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Computer hackers have begun to target online gamblers, attracted by the billions of pounds that are now wagered on sports events and poker games each year.

The online gaming industry last year made a "global win" of $13bn (£6.9bn) from punters, according to Global Betting and Gaming Consultants, making the sites a potentially lucrative target for fraud.

In two separate scams uncovered this month, hackers attempted to gain access to accounts at Betfair, the internet betting exchange, and 15 of the most popular poker sites including Party- Gaming.

Many of the top poker sites are British, owing to the uncertain legality of online gambling in the US.

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, a Finnish anti-virus company, said: "Since online gambling and online poker in particular has just exploded over the last year or two, it's actually a very clever way of stealing money."

F-Secure was alerted to the poker scam by a gambler whose machine had been infected with a virus after he visited Check Raised, a US-based site of poker tips and tools that draws thousands of aficionados of the game every month.

Players who downloaded a special poker calculator from the site over the past few weeks had their machines infected with a "Trojan" virus designed to retrieve passwords for the most common poker sites, giving the hacker the opportunity to enter their accounts and steal their money.

Chris Carlson, chief executive of the US-based site, said the calculator tool was supplied by a third-party programmer and he had had no reports that any money had been stolen.

But the incident gave rise to lively discussion on internet poker forums, with worried gamblers arguing that they should be compensated by Check Raised if they lost money as a result of the scam.

Mr Hypponen of F-Secure said: "This is completely unique; we haven't seen online poker sites targeted specifically like this."

David Sancho, senior research engineer at Trend Micro, another anti-virus company that was informed of the incident by Check Raised, said: "What's really amazing is that in this particular case the creator [of the virus] has slipped it into the legitimate website. This is comparable to what happened in the 80s when some computer magazines giving away CDs were [inadvertently] giving away viruses."

In another attack, a phoney news article about Betfair designed to look like it came from the BBC contained a Trojan which potentially allowed hackers to access accounts at the betting site, giving them the opportunity to steal money.

"Betfair sites have the very latest technology to stop hackers," the company said. "The problem is it's people's PCs that are being attacked, not the company."

PartyGaming also said it invested heavily in software to detect collusion and breaches of security but could protect the integrity only of its own site not gamblers' machines. "It's a never-ending race to keep in front," it said.


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