Virtual attacks and cheating have become a common threat since the rise in popularity of online poker. At first, the main virtual indiscretions were attributed to computerized automated players (bots) and the ability to see opponent’s hole cards. The most famous case became the Absolute Poker scandal involving a player named “Potripper”, who was able to see the hole cards of his opponents on his way to a near million dollar victory.
After some major computer issues, poker sites and players have taken measures to protect the security of the accounts and prevent any attacks or cheating. These measures have included the removable key that allows players to protect the password for their site in addition to peer monitoring over forums such as 2p2. These measures have been able to reveal cheating scandals such as that of former WSOP main event winner, Russ Hamilton.
However, a new virtual attack has been affecting the poker world. It has led to the shutdown of some poker sites such as SealswithClubs, Full Tilt Poker, and Titan Poker. Furthermore, these attacks have been affecting poker players at the high stakes, who have stated that disconnections were happening at some inopportune moments.
The new virtual attack is called a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and it is an attempt to make a machine or network resource unavailable to the user. The hacker(s) usually impair the website’s capability by flooding servers with traffic from thousands of different locations at once, which ends up causing an overwhelming task for the servers. This attack is usually used by remote computers that are infected a virus or latent code and can transfer onto innocent computers once the attack is activated.
In addition to these attacks on websites, high stakes players have been experiencing similar attacks on their accounts. In a TwoPlusTwo forum thread, players ‘sa1251’ and ‘ownage4u’ speculated that their accounts were attacked by bots or players using this attack. Essentially, these two players were involved in relatively large pots at high stakes tables and were disconnected after strong action (3-bet pots and Multi Street Pots) in a heads up battle.
The DDoS attacks on poker players may actually be a major problem for many who use the popular chat/video program, Skype. A hacker is able to retrieve a player’s IP address by finding out a person’s Skype screen name. After finding the screen name, a hacker can use an online service like SkypeGrabber to retrieve the IP address and use an online DoS provider to block the internet connection. This disconnect would allow any player to quickly bet and take a massive pot at any point. Furthermore, the hacker does not need to be a Skype friend to attack you, although Skype must be in use for this attack to work.
Although the reasons for these attacks are unknown, online poker operators and serious poker players are now considering solutions to solve this problem. Programs such as Skype Resolver Blocker are helpful in keeping IP addresses from getting in the wrong hands. Furthermore, online operators are currently working to update their servers and software to prevent these types of attacks.