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How to protect online casinos from hacking, DDoS cyber attacks, and save your data

Nikolaj Plugatar
November 21, 2023
14 min
24995

The digital era puts us only a click away from all of our desires, but this connectivity comes at a price. The internet is filled with individuals who have the expertise and inclination to slip past security measures and make off with money, data, or both. Where do these threats of theft or extortion come from? How can you guard against them? Let’s take a deep dive into cybersecurity for online casinos and sportsbooks.

What are they after?

In today's digital landscape, no business is immune to cyberattacks.

Whether it's a small family business or a large international gambling company, online businesses are vulnerable to hacking. However, larger companies not only have financial resources that hackers can exploit or steal, but they also stand to lose millions if their operations are disrupted.

But financial loss is not the only consequence of a hack. The personal data of your players, which you are responsible for, can also be compromised. When criminals gain access to players' personal accounts, they can use this information to hack into their email or social media accounts. They may then exploit this data for blackmail, hold it hostage, or sell it to other malicious actors. In any case, you risk significant damage to your reputation and loss of players' trust.

In the iGaming industry, cyberattacks are a common occurrence. Incidents are increasing at a rate of 1,000% per year, resulting in an average cost of £3.1m for operators. These attacks have caused significant financial losses and damage to the reputation of companies.

The most recent case is no exception. In September 2023, MGM suffered a massive cyber attack, which forced them to shut down certain systems across the US. This incident resulted in a loss of about $100 million, and it took approximately a month to normalize operations.

This is precisely why cyberattacks must be taken seriously.

Where do the threats come from?

There are numerous potential wrongdoers, and it doesn't have to be personal or targeted. Opportunistic hackers often scan the internet for vulnerabilities and openings they can exploit.

In a highly competitive industry like iGaming, attempting to gain an unfair advantage over other online casinos or sportsbooks is not uncommon. Businesses that prioritize quantity over quality for their gaming content, lack excellent player support, or have an inferior platform may choose to invest their money in hackers who will try to harm their competitors.

What is interesting, not all hacking is necessarily harmful. There is a growing trend of ethical hacking, also known as white-hat hacking. These freelance specialists, sometimes referred to as bounty hunters, discover bugs and vulnerabilities in software and report them to companies in exchange for a reward. Unlike their criminal counterparts, known as black-hat hackers, these individuals aim to assist companies in fixing vulnerabilities before they are exploited.

However, it's worth noting that the line between these two categories can sometimes become blurred. Some bounty hunters, who expect a reward but do not receive one, may leverage their knowledge of your security flaws and launch an attack themselves.

Common types of cyberattacks

Port Scan Attacks

As was mentioned previously, hackers constantly scan for weaknesses. This process can be completely automated, involving attempts to connect to random IP addresses, find open ports, or guess passwords.

Every server (and every computer in general) runs a lot of different services. Unfortunately, the ports used for the internet connection aren’t a one-way street.

While some ports are completely necessary (they allow for web functionality and remote administration), others are better off closely guarded.

A Port Scan is usually the beginning of a cyberattack, a way for a hacker to find a vulnerability to exploit and gain access to your system.

To better understand this process, imagine your server as a cabin in the woods. The hacker is a thief who constantly circles it, trying every door handle and looking under every doormat to see if there is a spare key. While you may welcome guests who announce themselves and enter through the front door, you wouldn't want someone climbing in through a bathroom window.

When you launch your web server for the first time, many services start automatically with open ports and default passwords, making you vulnerable. If a hacker happens to come across your IP address during a scan, they can quickly access your data or even gain root access.

Root access provides the highest level of control over a system. With root access, someone can do anything they want, such as stealing files, installing malicious software, or locking you out of your own system.

Port Scan attacks are quite common, but there are well-known countermeasures. The best defense is to constantly monitor and keep unnecessary doors closed.

DDoS attacks

A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is a simple and widespread cybersecurity threat. In simple terms, the attack takes the form of a flood of traffic aimed at overloading the target system, and as a result, drastically slowing down communication or causing the server to crash. This issue has been gaining popularity over the years. It was reported that In 2023, DDoS attacks increased by 200% compared to 2022.

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Hackers utilize extensive networks of malware-infected computers, known as botnets, to carry out these attacks. Due to the fact that the traffic originates from multiple machines that appear to be random, rather than a single source, it becomes challenging to differentiate it from legitimate users.

There are numerous types of DDoS attacks, each with its own technical implementation. Broadly speaking, they can be categorized as volume-based attacks, protocol attacks, and application attacks.

SQL injections

Structured Query Language (or SQL) is a computer language used in database management.

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Every time your player interacts with any kind of input field, on the back end, the data they input often goes into some kind of database or prompts a retrieval of information from one.

All this involves SQL, and by inputting a carefully crafted command, a hacker can retrieve confidential data.

Most modern databases are secured against SQL injection attacks that have been extremely prevalent for more than a decade. However, it’s still possible for hackers to find the vulnerabilities they’re looking for.

Ransomware

One of the most dangerous and destructive hacks, and a nightmare for every cyber-security manager, is ransomware. Ransomware is a type of malware that uses encryption to make files on the computer completely inaccessible. The methods employed in these attacks ensure that the data cannot be decrypted within a reasonable timeframe. As a result, hackers demand ransom money in exchange for a decryption key that can restore the files.

Ransomware is by far the worst kind of cybersecurity breach because until the data is decrypted, your platform will be completely disabled. One example of how devastating such a hack could be is an attack on SBTech that happened in March 2020.

The incident came at the worst possible time, as they were in the middle of the merger with DraftKings. SBTech’s platform for sports betting and iGaming wasn’t working for an entire week.

The fallout goes beyond lost revenue and reputational damage. As a result of a subsequent re-negotiation of the acquisition terms, SBTech had to put an additional $30 million into a fund to deal with the aftermath of the attack, such as lawsuits from hundreds of partners that lost revenue while the system was down.

The land-based sector is also vulnerable to ransomware attacks. A recent hack in Tasmania completely disrupted the operations of two casinos owned by the Federal Group, a company that has a monopoly on gaming machines in the country. Hackers not only captured valuable customer data but also caused the venues to completely suspend their operations for 10 days.

Cheating

While many of the hacks on this list sound like clandestine operations, there are bad actors that go for low-hanging fruit and just try to steal some small change by subverting platform functionality available to the players. These hacks include everything from finding ways to get free bonus money to reverse-engineering the game mechanics to get desired results.

Social engineering

If you ask a cybersecurity professional, "What is the weakest link in any security system?", their reply might surprise you: people.

It is a common misconception that hackers only operate online. In reality, hackers employ social engineering techniques to misguide and deceive their victims, making them divulge information that can be used to gain access to the target system.

The simplest form of social engineering is a phone call or message, where the hacker pretends to be a person of authority within the company and attempts to trick the employee into revealing their password or other credentials.

Another offline tactic commonly used in social engineering is baiting. Malicious actors leave infected USB sticks or other hardware near employees, hoping someone will become curious and pick them up. Once the device is used on a work computer, it becomes infected, providing hackers with easy access to the network.

To target high-profile organizations, hackers may even attempt physical entry into the company's headquarters. A simple tactic used by criminals is called tailgating, which involves following an authorized person through a door without using disguises or counterfeit credentials.

By employing manipulation and clever tricks, skilled hackers proficient in social engineering can bypass security guards, gain access to computers, and even steal physical documents.

Phishing and Spoofing

Phishing is a fraudulent internet communication, disguised as legitimate, that is used to gain access to information or to steal data. It’s commonly attributed to social engineering because this scam relies on human error.

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Phishing can target both your players and your employees, with different objectives and strategies. Your player may receive a spoofed email that looks like it was sent from you, asking to “confirm” personal information or credit card details. Or the email might offer a bonus that can be redeemed by clicking on a link to the platform, except the website it leads to is a copy of yours, meant to deceive your players.

Your employees may receive an email appearing to be from a trusted partner, a solution provider, or even within your own company. The message can have a malicious link or an attachment that will expose the network to further hacks. A classic tactic that bad actors use is to pretend to represent an IT manager or a system administrator and ask an unsuspecting employee to share their login or password.

Hackers can use spoofing to make this forgery look extremely similar: a spoofed website would have the same design as yours, as well as have a similar URL, and the email would have a legitimate email address in the From header.

Some phishing attacks are specifically targeted at company owners and C-level executives — this is called whaling. Such emails are usually personalized and try to persuade the victim to transfer funds to an account that belongs to a bad actor.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Specific variations exist within these broad categories, and there are many uncommon types of hacks that target vulnerabilities in specific systems.

But most importantly, the most dangerous cyberattack is the one that hasn’t happened yet. So cybersecurity experts remain vigilant and do their best to anticipate where the next danger will be coming from.

How to protect your business

Keep software up to date

Simply put, software is complicated, and malicious hackers are constantly probing it for weaknesses. Developers fix bugs and patch vulnerabilities to secure the system, but it is crucial to actually implement these changes to stay protected.

In a notorious hack known as WannaCry, which occurred in May 2017, companies in 150 countries collectively lost $4 billion. This attack could have been prevented by simply downloading an overlooked update.

Similar incidents happen to casino platforms that do not prioritize cybersecurity. If hackers discover outdated components in your system, they can exploit vulnerabilities that were fixed by developers in subsequent versions.

Furthermore, companies with robust protection are less likely to be targeted in the first place. It is cheaper and easier for hackers to target less secure systems.

Make sure your staff is trained

Even the most clandestine hacks often need a human to click on a link, download a file, or press a button. For this reason, staff trained to be aware of cybersecurity threats can be an impenetrable bastion of defense. Awareness of social engineering tricks and strategies makes them considerably less effective.

As for other types of attacks, having a comprehensive plan of action in case of a DDoS attack or a security breach will help your team mitigate damage and deal with the situation quickly and efficiently.

Penetration testing

The best way to make sure your casino platform is secure is to test it.

Penetration testing is when you pay a cybersecurity company to hack you. If they succeed, you can patch up the vulnerabilities and protect yourself from a real malicious attack.

Make sure the law is on your side

Dealing with the aftermath of a cyberattack is hard enough, but if you can’t count on the authorities for help, the situation is even more disastrous.

Unlicensed black-market operators are a prime target for hackers. If operators can’t turn to authorities for help, bad actors can steal data, extort money, and avoid punishment even if the hackers themselves are exposed.

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In some cases, these hackers are even mandated by the government itself.

Two Israeli cybersecurity companies, Security Joes and Profero, published reports claiming five companies that were illegally promoting their services to Chinese nationals had become targets of coordinated cyberattacks. According to the report, this effort is connected to the Chinese government’s efforts to combat illegal operators.

Use secure technology

It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially in IT.

Technologies like Cloudflare can protect from DDoS attacks by channeling and filtering traffic through their cloud network, and even a simple VPN goes a long way to make you a difficult target. CAPTCHA is another popular solution for mitigating DDoS attempts, as it prompts every user to solve a simple task, filtering out non-human visitors. DDoS attacks use bots, and while no solution offers 100% protection, every one of them forces hackers to commit more bots to make them smarter, or maintain the attack for longer to succeed. All this makes an attempt more difficult and expensive than hackers would like.

The best protection against SQL injections is to encrypt your databases. These attacks mostly target companies with outdated or substandard infrastructure, so investing in security can dramatically lower your risk.

How can Slotegrator help?

Partnering with solution providers that prioritize security is crucial. Slotegrator offers platform solutions that are equipped with a comprehensive set of tools to ensure the protection of casinos and sportsbooks.

Of particular importance is the anti-fraud module, which enhances financial security for gambling operators. This module collects data on risky actions and suspicious activities in gambling projects, aiding in risk management and fraud prevention. The data is stored in a user-friendly database, allowing operators to analyze it and receive notifications for any suspicious activity.

Plus, Slotegrator recently launched a new platform for online casino operators, with four modules, including Business Intelligence. This module enables operators to quickly and easily process and analyze large volumes of data, covering player behavior, game history, bonuses, deposits, and more.

All gaming content available for integration with APIgrator solution comes from reputable game developers, and the technologies used by solution providers are carefully vetted to meet contemporary security standards.

To receive more information on how we protect our customers, please contact our team.

Nikolaj Plugatar
Nikolaj Plugatar
Business Development Manager
Nikolaj started at Slotegrator in 2018 as a Sales Manager and became a Business Development Manager in 2022. Nikolaj is passionate about the iGaming industry — he is an expert in gambling markets and modern technologies and trends in development. He shares his knowledge about the most in-demand products and solutions on the market today and steers the gambling community in the direction of growth.

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