Sportsbet gambles DDoS attack, wins

Online betting agency updates firewall to handle doubling of website connections

Australians love to place bets online but little do some punters know of the dangers lurking in cyberspace.

Melbourne-based internet betting and entertainment website Sportsbet.com.au found out about these dangers the hard way when in 2009 the company was the target of a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS).

A DDoS attack involves harnessing hundreds or thousands of computers to simultaneously bombard a website with data so it becomes overwhelmed. The computers in such attacks have typically been infected with malware so they can be used without the consent or knowledge of their owners.

According to the company, traffic on the Sportsbet site can reach 2000 hits per second as punters place bets on race days and cyber criminals are keen to try and take a share of the money. Heightened attention during the Spring Carnival race in Melbourne during 2009 proved a viable opportunity for attack on its services.

Competitors TABCorp, Sportingbet and Centrebet all faced attack over the same time frame.

Sportsbet IT security manager, Gonzalo Ernst, told Computerworld Australia the company managed to mitigate against heavy traffic resulting from the attack.

"We had help from our internet service provider [ISP] because it’s a bandwidth attack and can only be done at the ISP level,” he said. “We have an agreement with our ISP to offer protection.”

According to Ernst, there were rumours of more DDoS attacks in 2010 on betting agency websites but it has not experienced a DDoS attack since the X-Series was installed.

While the Sportsbet website experienced service degradation for only two hours during its attack, the IT department made a decision to upgrade its firewalls to ensure the security infrastructure had the capacity to handle future attacks.

At the time, the company was using a C12 security offering from its vendor Crossbeam but, following the attack, it upgraded to the X-Series combined with a Check Point firewall.

The new updated Crossbeam firewall handles 10 to 13 million connections per second., allowing the company to prevent connection attacks, in which millions of connections of directed at a homepage to pull it down.

Online betting was a growth industry for Sportsbet, continuing to double traffic to the company’s website.

Crossbeam Australia and South East Asia regional sales director, Andrew Draper, said in a statement that Sportsbet had been working with the vendor since 2006.

"In our [Australian] customer base they are completely unique in that they are a 100 per cent Web-based business. We’re not working with other online betting agencies in Australia at present," he said.

While he would not name any other Australian customers, Draper said it does play in the telecommunications, university, financial services, insurance and government sectors.

Ernst advised other companies to have a close partnership with their ISP and good monitoring tools in place.

“The important thing is that once you get an attack is to know what kind of attack it is.”

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags DDoS attacksonline bettingCrossbeamSportsbet

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