Cyberwar comes to online gambling as China attacks Hong Kong

Cyber attacks are nothing new, and certainly DDoS attacks have been around almost since the beginning of the commercialization of the internet.  In many cases, a DDoS is done just to harm a company or group that someone felt slighted by.  But on other occasions, DDoS are done as a way to demand a ransom.  This happens more often then we know with online casinos and especially sites that allow sports betting.   If a group can effectively mount a DDoS attack during the NFL playoffs or in the days before a major soccer match, it can result in millions of dollars in losses for the casino or gambling website.

So when during a week in April, a series of DDoS attacks were targeting online casinos based in Hong Kong, many people thought it was just another attempt at blackmail, but then the evidence began to mount.  The first piece of information came from the fact that all of the attacks were launched from mainland China against all of the Hong Kong casinos.  During that timeframe, there were no other significant attacks launched against any other online casino.  The second piece of evidence actually occurred before the attack when a high ranking politician from China openly expressed the harm Hong Kong-based online casinos were doing against mainland China.  He also pointed out that many of the Hong Kong online casinos were owned by organizations who also deal in crimes such as drugs and human trafficking.  The comments did not mention any immediate or future action by the gov´t of China but certainly sent a message that Hong Kong-based online casinos are on the radar of the gov´t there.

A question that they should be asked is why didn´t the gov´t of China hide the location where the attacks were launched from.  The obvious answer is they actually wanted everyone to know.  In a way, it is no different than a military parade where a gov´t shows what they can do.  Online casinos spend a lot of time and money protecting themselves against hacking and DDoS attacks.. and the fact that China was able to keep the Hong Kong online casinos locked down for almost a week is a major show of strength, and probably something every online security expert has plan for.  The second reason why China would purposefully let people know they were behind the attack is as a signal to the Hong Kong government.  Because of the unique and bizarre relationship between Hong Kong and China, this DDoS attack could just be a backdoor way for China to tell Hong Kong to better regulate what is going on.  An important point on this is that none of the online casinos that were attacked are legal or registered in Hong Kong, Hong Kong has just been allowing them to operate anyway.