FBI Cyber Crime Division Warns Tribal Casinos About Ongoing Threats

Posted on: November 6, 2021, 05:54h. 

Last updated on: November 6, 2021, 10:32h.

The FBI Cyber Crime Division says casinos owned by Native Americans should remain on high alert for ransomware attacks.

FBI Cyber Crime tribal casinos
FBI Director Christopher Wray, seen here, says cybercrime is only intensifying in frequency. Tribal casinos, the federal intelligence and security agency says, are at high risk of a criminal online attack. (Image: Getty)

Numerous counts of cyber attacks on tribal casino resorts have been reported in recent years. But there’s been an uptick of such crime, federal officials explain. In an industry notification distributed last week to tribal casino properties, the FBI said cyber gangs find such businesses attractive to penetrate because of an array of perceived security shortcomings.

Bleeping Computer is an information security and technology media outlet that first reported on the FBI intelligence.  It explains that since the tribal casinos are located on sovereign land, their IT infrastructure networks are at greater risk of attack.

Limited cyber investigative capabilities and law enforcement resources are likely some of the reasons behind ransomware groups seeing US tribes as desirable targets,” wrote Sergui Gatlan for Bleeping Computer.

The FBI Cyber Crime Division adds that while many tribal casinos are IT savvy, with world-class computer networks and gaming systems, many others remain limited to basic internet security safeguards.

Bounties Growing

In mid-September of 2020, the Cache Creek Casino Resort in Northern California confirmed it was forced to shutter its gaming and resort operations because of a cyber attack. The tribal casino complex initially told guests that it was closing because of  a “systems infrastructure failure.” The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, owners of the resort, later revealed that internet criminals were behind the IT intrusion. The attack kept the casino closed for three weeks.

This year, a cyber attack in Oklahoma resulted in all six Lucky Star Casinos shuttering operations. Tribal officials said they were working with the FBI to resolve the matter after it was determined that cyber hackers were behind the IT outage.

The FBI reports that tribes have spent tens of millions of dollars on ransoms for their IT systems to be restored. Cybercriminals often demand payment in the form of cryptocurrency that is difficult, if not impossible, to trace.

Along with losing out on revenue and conceding bounties to their attackers, ransomware events can result in the theft of personal data on customers and employees, as well as sensitive business information.

Surmounting Danger

FBI Director Christopher Wray says criminal cyber strikes have increased rapidly over the past decade.

Today’s cyber threats are more pervasive, hit a wider variety of victims, and carry the potential for greater damage than ever before. That’s why cyber is one of the FBI’s highest priorities. And it’ll stay near the top of our list as long as nation-states and cybercriminal syndicates keep innovating,” Wray s aide said last month during a presentation before the Economic Club of New York.

The FBI boss detailed that the agency is centered on prevention and disruption, and “hitting hackers before they attack or before their intrusions can cause major harm.”

Wray explained that the days of a lone individual sitting in their basement hacking into a computer network are long gone. He revealed that the criminal organizations today are well-run and structured, with “administrators” being the skilled coders, and “affiliates” acting as the front person negotiating bounties with the victims.

The FBI is actively targeting the infrastructure of the cybercriminals in an effort to disable their servers, domains, and botnets. The agency also seeks to trace virtual currencies back to the bad actors.

Wray says businesses concerned with their IT susceptibility should contact their local FBI field office to learn more about how to protect their networks.