A couple of weeks ago, slot machines at several casinos across the country suddenly went haywire. From Louisiana to Oklahoma to Massachusetts, a handful of gambling houses reported issues with their slot machines. While those outages were ultimately resolved, it now seems that a couple of other casinos had problems with their own one-armed bandits. However, in this case, a much-dire picture is emerging, as the two casinos involved, both in Las Vegas, appear to have been the target of a ransomware attack that affected their entire operations.
The Four Queens Resort and Casino and Binion’s Gambling Hall, both sister properties owned by TLC Casino Enterprises, saw massive outages last week that forced machines to be taken offline. This past Monday, at least at Four Queens, the slots were back in operation, but were still unable to print winning vouchers. Binion’s, on the other hand, appears to be back in business.
Computer Business Review (CBR) explains that, for a few days, payouts at the venues’ machines were only possible in cash. Websites for the two casinos were down, and loyalty program processing and paying for accommodations and other amenities was made virtually impossible. CBR goes so far as to assert that the stoppage was due to a hack, but it isn’t clear what type of malicious attack may have been carried out – it may have been a ransomware attempt, or it may have just been a hacker with too much free time on his hands.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board is apparently aware of the issues and has launched an investigation. It issued a statement indicating that it is “monitoring the situation,” but refused to provide any additional information. TLC has remained silent on the subject, as well.
The attack comes shortly after MGM Resorts International found itself scrambling after its servers were hit last summer. The data of around ten million customers was stolen from the databases maintained by the company, leading to a lawsuit being filed last month. Even though the hack occurred in the middle of last year, MGM never acknowledged the break-in until forced to come forward after personal information began showing up in hacking forums.
Apparently, hacking into casino operations is relatively easy, which should scare anyone who frequents gambling houses. Dylan Wheeler, a security researcher, told CBR, “If someone wants to hack a casino, it’s surprisingly just about how easily you can get into their networks. If you are inside their networks, and they don’t segregate their networks properly, you’ll be able to interact with all kinds of machines, from the slot machines to even the card shufflers and camera systems.”
He adds, “I’ve had the source code to a few brands of slot machines. The test/dev code to others etc. They honestly just communicate (unencrypted) over the network and rely heavily on it, you can trigger almost anything including the developer testing stuff (jackpot etc.) if you know what you’re doing. You can also set a higher £ value to your inventory pretty easily due to test commands.”
It should be no surprise, then, that Las Vegas has had to deal with an ongoing cyber threat that is chewing up resources. The City of Las Vegas reported this past January that it sees about 279,000 attempted hacks each month. At least one has been successful, but the city asserts that no information was stolen.