When we talk about casino robberies, we tend to think of some sort of Ocean’s Eleven scenario, with masked robbers and cleverly timed exit plans, get away cars and bags of money.
In the modern world though, intelligent people won’t take that sort of risk.
Not only is security at casinos so good now, and any cash on site so well protected, but there are cameras everywhere, robbers can get traced through the tiniest bit of DNA, and most money is digital anyway.
Therefore, casino robbers of today don’t even need to be in the same country, they can attempt to rob a casino using a cyber-attack.
There are absolutely loads of different types of cyber-attacks, and casinos are a prime target for any criminal group looking to make a quick buck using dark web style trickery.
Online security is very good, but technology is advancing all the time, so casinos face a never-ending race to keep up if they want to stay safe from ransomware, malware, and even social engineering attacks.
There has even been a cyber-attack on a casino that started with a fish tank!
We have never been more connected, and data has never been better protected, but that hasn’t stopped the brightest hacking minds from finding ways to breach the casino’s systems.
Why Would A Casino Get Hacked?
Cyber criminals are not all that different to regular criminals – they want to benefit financially by holding a person or company to ransom.
In the same way that a spam email might threaten to do XY and Z if you don’t send 0.003465 Bitcoin to their address within 48 hours, a gang of professional hackers can get into a business’s internal system, and hold them to ransom.
Whether that be threatening to release confidential information, locking them out of their own system, or stopping the business from making money, the endgame is the same; give us the money or else.
Casinos are a particularly good target for hackers because they can quite literally hold the casino to ransom.
A casino’s business model means that the games need to be running non-stop for their edge to kick in, so every minute a game is down costs the casino money. Most slots are digital these days, so if all of the slots in a casino are down, even for just a day, that is a disaster.
What’s more, hackers know that casinos have a lot of cash on balance, so they have both the means and the motivation to give in to demands and pay up.
If an online only casino was targeted, this would be even worse, because that casino would have literally no way of making money until their site was up and running again, not to mention the reputational damage and trust issues it might create with their customers.
What Types of Cyber Attack Are There?
There are absolutely loads of different ways a hacker group could infiltrate a casino and cause havoc.
Just a few that exist, and examples if possible of where they have been used on casinos in the past, are listed below.
- Ransomware Attacks – Ransomware attacks involve encrypting a casino’s critical data and demanding a ransom for the decryption key. In 2020, the Gruporawbit gang targeted an unnamed casino and demanded a $10 million ransom to unlock their systems.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks – DDoS attacks flood a casino’s network with a massive volume of traffic, causing system overload and rendering services inaccessible. In 2016, Betat casino experienced a DDoS attack that disrupted its operations, with the instigators demanding 10 Bitcoin.
- Insider Threats – Insider threats involve employees or contractors with malicious intent. In 2014, a casino employee in Singapore tampered with surveillance cameras to help a high-roller accomplice cheat and win millions of dollars.
- Phishing and Social Engineering – Cybercriminals use phishing emails and social engineering tactics to trick casino employees into revealing sensitive information or installing malware. This can lead to data breaches or system compromises as was the case with the MGM Grand in 2023.
- Card Data Breaches – Criminals may target casinos to steal credit card and payment data from customers. In 2014, a breach at the Las Vegas Sands Corporation exposed customer data and resulted in a significant financial impact.
- Internet of Things (IoT) and Physical Attacks – In 2017, hackers used vulnerabilities in an IoT-connected fish tank’s sensors to breach an unnamed North American casino’s network. Yep, a fish tank connected to the internet was used as an entry point. They stole 10GB of data and sent it to a device in Finland.
- Malware and Spyware – Casinos may fall victim to malware and spyware that can infiltrate their systems, steal sensitive information, or record user activity. A native American tribal casino was hit by something like this in 2021.
- Data Theft and Extortion – Cybercriminals may target casinos to steal sensitive customer and operational data, which they then threaten to release unless a ransom is paid.
- Point of Sale (POS) Attacks – Criminals can compromise POS systems in casinos to steal payment card information during transactions, as seen in various attacks on hotels and restaurants associated with casinos.
- Third-party Vendor Vulnerabilities – Cybercriminals may target third-party vendors or service providers connected to casinos to gain access to their networks and systems.
This list tells us that cyber attacks are varied and numerous, and sometimes as simple as an employee hacking a security camera, but also that they have been used against casinos an awful lot from around 2010 onwards.
With technology coming on at rapid speeds, and the average guy or girl in the street not necessarily keeping up with that progress, we can probably expect to see a lot more cyber-attacks on casinos too.
Examples of Cyber Attacks on Casinos
A few examples of what we have been talking about impacting big name companies are covered in more detail below.
Betfair Security Breach – 2010
A very early example of cyber attacks on casinos or casino sites was the 2010 security breach suffered by Betfair.
Although better known as a sportsbook and betting exchange, they do have an online casino as well, and millions of their customers’ information was at risk after this breach.
Cyber-criminals gained access to the company’s database, getting hold of the personal information of thousands of account holders such as usernames, passwords, security questions, email addresses, and even bank information.
Luckily, the information was not useable after it had been stolen, thanks to security measures that made it unusable for fraudulent activity.
Still, Betfair had to reset the passwords of every single person who had ever signed up with the company as a precaution, despite those passwords already being encrypted.
Although the breach occurred in 2010, Betfair didn’t make it known until 2011, and they didn’t even discover it themselves until 2 months after it had happened, which caused a lot of distrust between the company and their customers.
Cyber Attack on the MGM Grand – 2023
This case hit the headlines in September of 2023, and is an excellent example of a real brick and mortar casino getting attacked.
MGM Resorts Internationalbfell victim to a ransomware attack carried out by the ALPHV, also known as BlackCat, ransomware group. The attack led to a significant disruption in the company’s operations, impacting multiple locations across the United States, including:
- Las Vegas
- New Jersey
- New York
Despite being highly skilled hackers, the group actually employed a surprisingly straightforward method to infiltrate MGM’s computer systems.
They simply found an employee on LinkedIn and then made a call to the company’s Help Desk. In just ten minutes, ALPHV managed to compromise the security of a company valued at approximately $33.9 billion using social engineering.
The group’s swift success highlights the vulnerability of unsuspecting employees to social engineering tactics, and serves as a stark reminder of the ever-evolving dangers of the cybersecurity realm.
Following the cyberattack, MGM Resorts took immediate steps to secure its systems, but the full extent of the breach will likely never be fully divulged. The attack disrupted digital key card systems for hotel rooms, digital slot machines, parking systems, and the company’s website which was down for days.
Customers faced challenges such as cancelled reservations, difficulties with check-in processes, and payment issues.
Clearly then, this hurt MGM in more ways than one – it wasn’t just the casino games that were affected.
Even the FBI got involved, showing just how serious the situation was.
Gateway Casinos Ransomware Attack – 2023
Several casinos in Ontario, including popular ones like Casino Rama in Orillia, Georgian Downs in Innisfil, and Playtime Casinos Wasaga Beach, remained closed for two weeks following a ransomware attack in 2023.
The cyberattack affected Gateway Casinos facilities, targeting their IT infrastructure and impacting the operations of 14 of their physical casinos.
They basically couldn’t open because it wasn’t safe for them to do so, and parts of their business would simply not run.
The aftermath of this cyberattack was likened to recovering from a major fire or disaster, taking years to undo, with a complex recovery process requiring highly-trained experts. It was described as a potentially business killing attack costing into the tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Although Gateway Casinos stated that there was no evidence of customer data breach, there was no guarantee that customer information didn’t end up on the dark web, and there were also questions over whether or not Gateway paid a ransom to enable them to get back to business.