Over the last ten years or so, the digital world has seen a significant expansion, providing a wide array of activities and entertainment, including online gambling. The gaming industry was one of the first sectors to harness the power of digital technology and the internet, transitioning games such as video poker & slots, table games, and sports betting from brick-and-mortar establishments to an online environment. However, this shift presented new hurdles for both the businesses involved and their customers.
In the realm of online casinos, players require assurance that their data, including verification documents and banking information, are securely handled. Additionally, the casino must provide games that are safe, fair, and free from manipulation.
So, how are these standards upheld? How do both casinos and regulatory authorities ensure the protection of players? And how can you confirm that the online casino you’ve chosen is legitimate, fair, and not one of the notorious rogue casinos?
Thankfully, we have put together an all-encompassing guide on this matter. After going through it, you’ll emerge as an informed gambler, proficient in the various aspects of iGaming security.
The Most Prevalent Forms of Cyber Threats in Casinos
Just like all other digital businesses, online casinos and sports betting sites are also susceptible to a myriad of cyberattacks.
There are no definitive criteria that determine who might be targeted. An operator running on a modest scale in Curacao can be just as exposed to attacks as larger companies with significant financial backing.
So, why are online casinos such enticing targets? The answer is quite simple: money. A typical iGaming platform conducts countless transactions every day and retains the personal information of its players, which could be misused for identity theft. These elements make them attractive targets for both individual hackers and organized cybercrime syndicates.
Considering the wide array of attacks that can undermine casino safety and security, and the fact they can originate from any corner of the world (owing to the universal accessibility of the Internet), it’s beneficial to familiarize oneself with the different forms of cyber threats.
A DDOS, or distributed denial of service, is among the most ancient forms of cyberattacks. However, its age doesn’t diminish its threat level. In a DDOS assault, the perpetrator employs a network of computers to simultaneously access a singular website. This flood of connection requests overburdens the servers, leading to a slow-down and potential total server crash of the site.
This kind of cyber assault is as old as the inception of the Internet. Ports are essentially “entry points” that various services on a server employ for communication. For a website to function normally, many of these ports must stay open, while some are more secure when kept closed.
The vulnerability to such attacks frequently arises from incorrect configurations. When initiating a new site, many services start with open ports and default passwords. If these aren’t modified, it becomes a simple task for a hacker to breach. This includes obtaining “root access,” which grants complete control.
Once a hacker secures this, they can essentially loot the servers for any data they wish to snatch, and then use or trade for malevolent purposes.
Moving on to the more advanced and technologically superior attacks, ransomware is a type of assault that instills terror in every security administrator. Its potency should not be underestimated as it has previously victimized government bodies and Fortune 500 corporations.
SBTech also fell prey to such an attack in March 2020, when a ransomware assault rendered their platform inoperative for a week. Allegedly, this attack set the company back by approximately $30 million.
So how does it function? An attacker manages to install a program onto the computer or network which then initiates an encryption process. Once the files are encrypted, access becomes impossible. It’s akin to someone changing the locks on your house and then demanding payment for their removal.
The attackers typically demand a ransom in cryptocurrency to decrypt the files.
This type of attack could arguably be the most perilous because it exploits the human element. Attackers may pose as superiors or bosses, attempting to coax individuals into divulging their passwords and other confidential information.
Such attacks aren’t confined to the digital realm.
They can manifest as leaving infected hardware like USB sticks in an office, with the hope that an unsuspecting individual might use it, thereby contaminating work computers.
Some intruders have even resorted to low-tech strategies such as tailgating, which involves slipping in behind an authorized person as they open a door, and gaining unauthorized access to restricted areas.
Phishing and Spoofing
Tightly associated with social engineering, phishing is a complex form of assault where a hacker impersonates emails or other types of communication, making it seem as if they are sent from a trustworthy entity.
Take for instance, an online casino enthusiast might get a message that seems to come from their favorite gaming site. The email might suggest a unique welcome bonus, but only if the player clicks on a link and inputs their login details into a sham website. These forged websites can be incredibly convincing.
These misleading strategies may target casino staff, coaxing them into unveiling sensitive and classified details like work computers and network passwords.
What are the Sources of Security Threats?
To encapsulate it in one phrase — threats can originate from anywhere. The Internet’s vast, global network means potential attackers could be located anywhere in the world, emphasizing the significance of online casino security.
Certain organizations are notorious for launching cyberattacks on various targets, including online casinos or sports betting websites.
Profit-driven attacks primarily originate from organized crime networks, as they possess the required tools and infrastructure to execute them. So far, the iGaming industry hasn’t attracted much attention from hacker groups driven by political motives.
Instead, those who target the iGaming industry are typically motivated by financial gain, either through ransomware attacks or by stealing sensitive player data for resale or further criminal activities.
However, there is another type of threat in the iGaming world related to regulatory non-compliance and inadequate player protection. As part of their licensing process, certified casinos must adhere to data and privacy protection regulations.
Regardless, it remains crucial for both online casinos and their users to remain vigilant about security at all times.
Five Security Measures Implemented by Casinos to Safeguard Their Patrons
To safeguard themselves and their players, online gambling operators have embraced certain best practices to reduce the likelihood of cyberattacks, data breaches, and other potential security incidents that could harm both the players and the business.
Employing robust security technology
In the ever-evolving world of online gaming, casinos have found an effective way to protect both themselves and their players – through the use of online casino security technology. This approach has become crucial as cybercriminals continue to evolve and enhance their malicious tactics. In response, security companies have stepped up their game by developing advanced countermeasures to combat these threats. Services such as Cloudflare have emerged as reliable shields against DDOS attacks, while CAPTCHA technologies serve a dual purpose – acting as a defense against both DDOS attacks and spam. Additionally, databases, often targeted and susceptible to “SQL Injections”, can be made more secure through the use of encryption, adding another layer of protection in this digital battlefield.
Educating their personnel
In the context of social engineering and phishing attacks, the most effective strategy involves teaching the casino staff to identify these attack efforts and respond appropriately. This is not only the organization but also its players.
Maintaining updated software
While it might seem like a trivial point to mention, the importance of consistently updating all used software cannot be overstated when it comes to security. Frequently, attackers exploit flaws and vulnerabilities present in outdated versions of software, which have already been fixed by the producer.
The colossal WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which cost the impacted businesses over $4 billion, serves as a prime example. This attack could have been averted if systems had been kept updated, as the hackers relied on an old exploit that had already been patched.
Understanding the basics of security: HTTPS, SSL, TSL, Firewalls
HTTPS, SSL, and TSL are essential terms that should be on the tip of every security administrator’s tongue as they represent the cornerstone of cyber-security. HTTPS is a more secure version of the HTTP protocol, the main medium through which data is transmitted between web browsers and websites. By encrypting this communication, any potential peeping toms on the network are hindered from seeing the information exchanged.
The activation of an HTTPS connection is signaled by a lock icon shown next to the site’s URL in all contemporary browsers.
TSL (Transport Layer Security) is a widely used yet exceptionally secure form of data encryption, employed by prominent banks to ensure the safety of online transactions.
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is another protocol for encryption used to establish a secure link, safeguarding the confidential data stored on the server of a casino. Even if an intruder manages to breach the system, the data would be rendered meaningless without the appropriate decryption key.
Implementing Penetration Testing
While this alternative can be costly and somewhat severe, it’s a case of prevention being better than cure. In a penetration test, an operator commissions a cybersecurity firm to assess the security of their online casino.
The firm then mimics a cyberattack employing tactics akin to those used by actual attackers. Subsequently, they report their discoveries and the client can reinforce their security measures.
Understanding eCogra and Its Significance in the Gambling Sector
Threats from malicious entities are one aspect of casino cybersecurity. The other aspect is the authenticity and fairness of the games, as well as the casino’s conduct and reputation.
In the infancy of online iGaming, due to the dubious activities of some operators, the entire industry risked acquiring a negative reputation.
Stories of casinos running rigged games without any licensing spread across online discussion forums where gamblers shared their experiences. Worse still, there were blatant fraudulent online betting platforms that simply refused to pay out winnings.
Today, however, the scenario has significantly changed, largely due to laws, regulations, and the involvement of eCOGRA (eCommerce and Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance).
Established in 2002 by 888 (a publicly listed casino operator) and Microgaming (a renowned software and game producer), this independent industry standards organization grants its Seal of Approval to operators that adhere to its standards in casino cybersecurity, among other areas.
It ensures that the operator complies with the standards for information storage security, fair usage of random number generators, timely payment processing, and overall responsible behavior. To maintain their status, casinos must consent to regular audits conducted by their parent companies.
eCOGRA also operates a dispute resolution department to assist players with issues they couldn’t resolve through standard support channels.
In essence, an online casino with an eCOGRA seal commits to maintaining safety, security, and fairness. Any venue bearing this seal is invariably a good option for players.
Understanding How Casinos and Regulatory Bodies Ensure Game Fairness
To truly comprehend what fairness means for an online game of chance, such as a video slot or table game, we first need to grasp the concept of Random Number Generators (RNGs).
In simple terms, RNGs are programs that generate random numbers. These programs form the backbone of games like online video slots or table games. In reality, the result of a roulette round hinges on the physical interaction between the wheel and the ball, which can’t be duplicated on a website.
Likewise, the outcome in early slot games (known as “fruit machines”) relied on spinning mechanical reels.
Today, however, all digital games of chance are governed by RNGs.
But how can one determine if the RNG is genuinely fair? Is online gambling secure? How can a casino enthusiast or bettor ascertain this?
The Role of Regulatory Bodies in Secure Gambling
Any online platform with a credible online casino license must have undergone a process wherein the fairness of their website is verified. Regulators also mandate Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering procedures, as well as establish standards for payout timelines.
Independent entities also conduct checks, such as the previously mentioned eCOGRA or TST (Technical Systems Testing) based in Canada, which offers auditing services and compliance testing.
In certain jurisdictions, online betting platforms are required to disclose the RTPs (Return to Player) of their slots. This adds another layer of protection for players, as they can know exactly what to anticipate from a game. RTP is a percentage calculated over numerous spins (often in the millions), indicating how much of the money wagered into a slot will be returned to them. Typical RTPs on modern video slots range from 94% to 97%.
It’s crucial to note that operators with licenses and preferably an eCOGRA certificate are safe to play at, regularly audited, and fair. In the contemporary era, with enhanced regulation and punters sharing their experiences online, the number of unlicensed, unfair, and blatantly illegal casinos has started to decline.