British Hacker Sentenced in Finland for Online Casino Theft of $900K

British hacker being sentenced in Finland
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A British man has been sentenced to two and a half years in a Finnish prison for hacking into two online casinos and stealing approximately €835K (US$900K). On Friday, July 7, the District Court of Central Finland found William Anthony Parker, 34, guilty of aggravated online casino fraud, according to Finnish public broadcaster Yle. Parker exploited a security vulnerability to infiltrate the casinos’ systems for personal financial gain.

Details of the Crime

The report did not specify the exact methods Parker used. However, a Yle article from May, which focused on the investigation, suggested that he had manipulated game results in his favor. He achieved this by using legal cybersecurity software in an illicit manner. This software, intended for protection against cyber threats, was repurposed by Parker to access and alter the casino systems, allowing him to win significant amounts of money fraudulently.

Lone Wolf Operation

The crimes occurred between April and May 2023 in Vantaa, a city in southern Finland, while Parker resided in the UK. Prosecutors believe Parker acted alone. He was arrested in central Finland in January 2024 and initially charged with gross data breach and financial fraud.

Court Proceedings and Sentencing

The total damage caused to the casinos was estimated at around €1.3 million (US$1.4 million), Yle reported. The court ordered Parker to forfeit the €835K he stole to the Finnish state. During his arrest, authorities seized over €9K (US$9.7K) in cash and 100 gold coins. These assets were frozen by court order during the preliminary investigation.

Prosecutors had sought a prison sentence of more than three years for Parker. However, the court sentenced him to two and a half years. The court’s decision is not final and is subject to appeal, Yle noted.

Impact and Broader Implications

The case underscores the sophisticated methods cybercriminals are using to target both online and land-based casinos. In September 2023, hackers stole approximately $41 million worth of cryptocurrency from the crypto gambling site Stake.com.

Stake.com founder Edward Craven described the breach as “sophisticated,” noting that it exploited a service the casino uses to authorize crypto transactions. The FBI attributed the attack to North Korea’s state-sponsored cybercrime unit, the Lazarus Group.

Other Major Cyber Breaches

In the same month as the Lazarus attack, major land-based casinos Caesars and MGM Resorts were hit by ransomware attacks organized by a hacking group known as “Scattered Spider.” MGM refused to pay the ransom, resulting in operational disruptions that lasted for days and caused an estimated $100 million in damage. Caesars, on the other hand, paid around $15 million to restore normal services.

These incidents highlight the ongoing risks and vulnerabilities faced by the gaming industry from increasingly sophisticated cyber threats. The increasing frequency and severity of these attacks suggest a growing need for enhanced cybersecurity measures in the gaming sector.

Conclusion

Parker’s case is a stark reminder of the evolving landscape of cybercrime, particularly in industries with significant financial transactions such as online gambling. It also highlights the international nature of such crimes, as perpetrators can operate across borders with relative ease. As the gaming industry continues to grow, so too will the efforts of those seeking to exploit its vulnerabilities. Therefore, casinos and related businesses must remain vigilant and invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect their operations and customers.