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When the snakes come marching in: Protection for the online gaming industry in the age of cyber-insecurity

TAGs: Guest Contributor, Internet Privacy, Martin Owens

This is a guest contribution by Martin Owens. If you would like to submit a contribution please contact Bill Beatty for submission details. Thank you.

Part II: How customers can protect themselves

The Internet, once billed as the all-purpose Golden Road to the Future, is now beginning to show its dark side- data leaks and breaches, unauthorized and unsupervised snooping at every level. In the first part we covered what the online gaming operators can do protect themselves and the customers. In this indtalment, we turn to how the players can help themselves, now that the snakes have come to Eden.

When the Snakes come marching inAs so many of us have painfully come to know, loss of personal identifying data, particularly relating to finance, can be far more damaging than any mere theft of ADW funds online. Stolen credit card numbers are a staple of illegal Internet commerce, particularly on the so-called “dark web”(Just now a filched US credit card number sells for around $14; UK and EU cards for twice that).11 Of course great damage can be done to a person’s credit until the theft is known and the number canceled, but beyond that, identity thieves can use stolen information to set up bogus credit card , bank and, utilities accounts, take out loans in the victim’s name, and intercept Federal and state tax rebates. Stolen personal information can even be used to establish new fake identities for people on the run from the authorities.22

It is the customer’s responsibility to prevent misappropriation of his or her online information, particularly in a mileau with a “Wild West” reputation like online gambling. The first and most obvious prevention is to avoid dicey online gaming operations. Sites that offer incredible bonuses and payouts made turn out to be just that: non-credible. Also be careful of sloppy, nonprofessional, or “ buggy” presentations and interfaces. This could be the result of amateur work – but it could also be the telltale sign of a “fly-by-night” operation or even a launch pad for viruses, worms and suchlike.. If at all possible, stick to playing with ( and downloading playing software from) only licensed and reputable operators, who have something to lose by playing dirty. Also, since even the most reputable online businesses can be hacked, it might be a good idea for customers to limit their immediate exposure in that event, by not keeping too much of a balance in ADW accounts

Next, anyone interacting with with Internet gaming on anything like a regular basis should install and keep updated a good suite of security software. A wide assortment is available at reasonable prices. A particular concern of gamers, both gambling and non- gambling, is that the antivirus/security programs do not adversely affect gameplay by causing lag increased refresh/reaction time) and related drains on CPU.33 Increasingly, this is automatically compensated for. Another aspect of keeping security updated is to change passwords on a regular basis; even if it means extra trouble. Separate passwords for separate pages and activities are a powerful protection.

A more recent development has been so-called “Phishing“, whereby identity thieves pretend to be a legitimate business such as a bank or credit card company, or even a government department such as the IRS. They ask for “updates” or “confirmation”, which generally involves giving up names, addresses, Social Security and credit card numbers to a decoy page, whereupon it is promptly shanghaied and put to ill use. Or they may simply be counting on the victim to download the email attachments, which deliver malware to the victim’s computer. In either case, it is important to remember the most reputable companies seldom if ever ask for direct information via email attachments, and the various departments of government, state and Federal, never do. If there is doubt, check the return address; an odd URL is a dead giveaway. In some cases the imposture may be so good that a call to the customer service center of the legitimate business is necessary. This is always worthwhile. So is regular review of account activity, particularly for those cards/accounts which are used to pay for Internet gaming.

And the problem has surfaced peculiar to the age of social media: over-information. Through such services as Facebook , Twitter , People can reveal entirely too much information for their own good. A careless mention of when you won’t be home, for instance, can be an invitation to burglars.44 There have even been fatalities based on carelessly revealed online information.55 Especially for large jackpots, it might be prudent for a victorious player to share the good news only verbally, with close friends and family.
In gaming, as in many other things, today’s Internet user has an almost undreamed of’s degree of choice and flexibility all to himself. But that also entails heightened and continual vigilance against carelessness and temptation of all kinds. And for that vigilance the individual alone is primarily responsible. Cyber voyagers today would do well to remember the old Danish seafaring proverb: ” Never sail out so far that you can’t row back.”

Next time: the role of governments and regulators


11 See, e.g. ” Dark Web sells Stolen Credit Cards Details for just £11 – Buy using Bitcoin” available at Deep Web https://www.deepweb-sites.com/dark-web-sells-stolen-credit-cards-details-for-just-11/ (September 5, 2017)

22 See, e.g. FamilySecure.com ( Experian PLC), “What Thieves Do With a Stolen Identity” available at https://www.familysecure.com/What-Thieves-Do-With-Stolen-Identity.aspx (September 5, 2017)

33 See, e.g., Alina Bradford,“The Best Anti-virus Software for Gamers”, Top 10 Reviews, available at http://www.toptenreviews.com/software/articles/the-best-anti-virus-software-for-gamers/ (September 6, 2017)

44 See, e.g. Boonsri Dickinson,” 80% of Robbers Check Twitter, Facebook, Google Street View”. ZDNet.com, November 1, 2011. Available at http://www.zdnet.com/article/infographic-80-of-robbers-check-twitter-facebook-google-street-view/ (September 6, 2017).

55 See, e.g., David Boroff, “Florida Woman Shot to Death Hours After Writing on Facebook How She Went From Being Homeless to ‘Making Six Figures‘ NY Daily News, June 29, 2017 at http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/woman-killed-hours-proud-facebook-post-article-1.3289007

Mr. Owens is a California attorney specializing in the law of Internet and  interactive gaming  since 1998.  Co-author of INTERNET GAMING LAW with Professor Nelson Rose,( Mary Ann Liebert Publishers , 2nd ed 2009) ; Associate Editor , Gaming Law Review & Economics; Contributing Editor, TSN. Comments/inquiries welcome at  [email protected].

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