The US Senate appears unlikely to pass cybersecurity legislation during the lame duck session of Congress, meaning the online poker bill sponsored by Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will need to find some other piece of must-pass legislation to which it can attach itself. On Saturday, The Hill reported that several factors have ganged up to diminish hopes of passing the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, including the sheer volume of legislation on the lame-duck docket and the lack of any substantive progress in resolving the disputes that prompted Republicans to block the Act from coming up for a vote earlier this year. An unidentified lobbyist claimed that even if the Act passed the Senate, gaining approval in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives faced was even more unlikely. The Act’s principal author, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CN), who is due to retire at the end of the year, has reportedly put the odds of the Act passing at “less than 50-50.”
In a bid to boost the Act’s chances of passing, the Obama administration has been sounding the alarm over potential cyberthreats from nations like Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in particular, has been fanning the flames by alluding to Iran’s potential involvement in recent hacking attacks against US banks and Saudi oil companies. (Panetta voiced no such alarmist concerns over what are believed to be joint US/Israeli cyberattacks on Iranian nuclear facilities, but we digress.)
As if on cue, the French EuroMillions lottery site has been hacked by an apparent Islamic group stridently opposed to gambling. French media outlet RAI reported that lottery players who tried to access the site on Sunday found the following messages in French and Arabic from a group identifying itself as ‘Moroccoanghosts’: “Oh, you believers. Wine, games of chance, statues all augur impurity and are the work of the devil.” Satan uses such tools, the hackers claimed, to “sow hatred between yourselves and turn you away from God and prayer.” Okay, the alcohol and gambling objections we recognize, but statues? Just to be safe, should the staff at the Louvre in Paris cover Venus de Milo’s breasts with a burga?
If the specter of Jihadi boogiemen can’t convince Republican senators to pass cybersecurity legislation, perhaps the shadowy Anonymous hacker collective can. On Sunday, Anonymous posted a warning that if social games developer Zynga doesn’t back off its stated plan to slash its workforce, Anonymous will take down Facebook on Nov. 5 (the day before the US election) and release Zynga’s games software to the public for free. According to confidential internal Zynga documents Anonymous claims to have accessed, Zynga is planning to cut a further 800 jobs by Nov. 23 and “completely outsource our development teams in our offices in Bangalore, India to hedge our position in the long term.” Anonymous says the fact that Zynga has $1.6b in cash and securities lying around means the company has no justification for the “outrageous treatment of their employees and their actions against many developers.”
Whether or not the threat is real, one of the internal documents Anonymous claims to have retrieved from Zynga references its recent real-money gambling tie-up with Bwin.party and states that “as we speak discussions are progressing with a partner to cover the US market.”