Beware of Cyber Attacks, Nevada Gaming Board Warns Casinos

  • NGCB chairman Gibson has described ransomware as “a major challenge” moving forward
  • His comments come after a string of US hacks including one affecting 1,500 businesses last week
  • Casino operators have also suffered cyber attacks, with six casinos forced to close in June
  • The Cosmopolitan’s chief information officer told the NGCB cyber security is a top priority 
Cyber attack notification on laptop
In Nevada, the gaming regulator has warned its licensees to be wary of ransomware attacks after a recent string of hacks on companies in the US. [Image:]

Preparing for the worst

In light of a recent spree of ransomware attacks, the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) has warned the state’s gambling operators to remain vigilant.

it’s going to be a big deal going forward and a major challenge.”

J. Brin Gibson, chairman of the NGCB, commented on the issue during the regulator’s monthly meeting on Wednesday. He said that the board is speaking with applicants and licensees regarding cyber security on a regular basis to ensure they prepare for attacks.

“With these cash-heavy businesses, it’s going to be a big deal going forward and a major challenge,” Gibson commented.

Just last week, a huge cyberattack on US software company Kaseya potentially impacted up to 1,500 businesses worldwide. Although that particular attack did not target casino operators, they have suffered from similar hacks in the past. Six Oklahoma tribal casinos had to close just last month following a data breach.

A string of cyber attacks

Gibson’s cyber attack warning for casino operators comes after a spree of hacks on companies in the US. Last week’s attack, supposedly launched by Russian hacking group the REvil gang, largely affected small businesses with little to no IT capabilities with which to respond. The attackers demanded $70m in Bitcoin to restore stolen data.

The US gambling industry has seen plenty of data breaches of its own, as well. A ransomware attack last month led the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal Nations of Oklahoma to close down their six casinos operated through the Lucky Star Casino brand. The operator has asked the FBI to investigate the incident.

systems infrastucture failure”

In September last year, the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Northern California also closed because of a cyber attack. The hack prompted what the tribal casino described as a “systems infrastructure failure,” causing the casino to close up shop for more than three weeks.

Similarly, hackers have also hit casinos in Las Vegas. An alleged cyber attack caused a computer outage at Las Vegas’s Four Queens Hotel and Casino and Binion’s Gambling Hall in March 2020. Meanwhile, MGM Resorts International experienced a data breach in the summer of 2019 which saw the personal data of 10.6 million of its guests leaked.

Bollen faces the challenge

During Wednesday’s meeting, the NGCB recommended that John Robert Bollen, the chief information officer of The Cosmopolitan, receive a key employee license. He spoke with the Board on the growing threat of ransomware and how his company is working to combat it.

Bollen, who joined The Cosmopolitan in June 2020, told the NGCB that cyber security remains one of his top priorities.

“One thing that keeps me up at night is cyber security,” Bollen said. “There are a lot of open barn doors that we have to close to keep the company safe from cyber attacks and malware.”

The executive said that the company only recently completed an information technology upgrade to ensure it stamped out any vulnerabilities and cyber concerns in old databases. He also affirmed that The Cosmopolitan is continuing to add to its cyber security staff, even though it is difficult to fill positions.

The Cosmopolitan returned to 100% capacity in May after several months of operating at reduced occupancy. Uniquely, the casino motivated its workers to get vaccinations by offering cash bonus incentives.

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