Computer Crime Research Center


Hackers Threaten to Disrupt Online Bookies

Date: February 23, 2004
By: Neville Dean

Beware: hackers are trying to interfere in all spheres of social and economical life of different countries. Computer crimes that they commit become more and more sophisticated.

Computer hackers are trying to blackmail Internet bookmakers by threatening to disrupt online betting ahead of the Grand National, it emerged today.

The hackers, believed to be criminal gangs in Eastern Europe, are threatening to paralyse bookmakers' websites before the big race unless their demands for money are met.

Their method is a co-ordinated electronic attack, which floods the targeted website with requests for information - making it inaccessible for anyone wanting to place a bet.

If carried out, the attacks could cost bookmakers hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business.

The gangs are also understood to be threatening to disrupt online betting ahead of other major sporting events this year, such as the Euro 2004 football tournament.

They make the threats via e-mail, demanding around 20,000 to 30,000 - the equivalent of around an hour's worth of business for many Internet bookmakers.

The extortion racket is being investigated by the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU).

A spokeswoman for the Unit said today: "We are aware of it and we are investigating. We know that specific sporting events are being targeted. This could well include the Grand National and Euro 2004."

The NHTCU began investigating the threats last autumn when attacks on UK sites were reported, but the spokeswoman said it knew of attacks as far back as two years ago.

The hackers use what is known as a Distributed Denial of Service attack, where targets are deluged with requests for information, paralysing their website for 24 hours.

The attack slows down the site to such an extent that users are effectively unable to place a bet.

It is understood the hackers threatened offshore websites used by US gamblers before last month's Superbowl.

The racket has spread to the UK as the online betting industry has grown, with more websites starting up in the last two years.
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