Poker Players Beware: Malware Ninjas and Miscreants Lie in Wait

Posted on: December 5, 2013, 05:30h. 

Last updated on: December 5, 2013, 06:24h.

Software Ninja malware
Software “Ninjas” now threaten the security of online poker; don’t leave yourself vulnerable. (Image: ERBH Wiki)

When word surfaced recently in Congressional hearings that the Obamacare website had never had appropriate security measures built into it – and that the only real way to fix that oversight was to start from scratch – we were all reminded yet again that some of the scariest crimes these days can be committed out of sight and unknown, until it’s too late and our personal information – or worse, our bank account information – has been hacked. And while cyber security for online gambling has always been a primary concern, for both providers and players, the new dawn of American legal online gaming brings this potential threat front and center once again.

While so far, the new Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey legal gaming sites haven’t reported any security issues, no doubt everyone on all sides of the online gambling issue and both sides of the play situation are watching and waiting. And recent reports of malware attacks on online poker players around the world must certainly make everyone pay even more attention than normal now.

Software Ninja Moves Stealthily

The latest malware scare comes from a Russian-made product called, appropriately enough,  I2Ninja. It uses the I2P Shadow Internet – a product that itself uses cryptography to create a kind of modern and secret Morse code communication capability between peer-to-peer criminal users. Welcome to the Darknet – the term used to describe the dark underbelly of criminal acivities that more and more permeate, and seemingly more and more easily infiltrate, the mainstream Internet, taking whatever it wants like an invisible highwayman of yore. Just as scary, the I2P network allows users to browse at leisure, anonymous and unseen, throughout the Internet itself.

The Ninja and I2P are so sophisticated, you can even now get de facto chat help for anything you need answers to as you search for victims, information and more. Needless to say, this help desk is anonymous and reportedly very secure, and it’s available 24/7/365.

“Hi, how may we help you to ruin someone’s life today, Mr. Criminal?” might be a standard greeting, we imagine.

For poker players, we’re hearing that the Ninja software makes it possible for users to steal your online information with an add-on product called “PokerGrabber,” which reportedly works with even the best and most supposedly secure online poker sites out there. The Ninja gloms on to your information when the malware is inadvertently uploaded onto your computer, which subsequently allows the perp to access the Internet from your own device, to no good end, obviously.

Laptop Hackers Seize Opportunity

Poker forums like 2+2 have been discussing other high-profile criminal activity involving poker players and their laptops as well.  A notable one in September involved two players whose room was broken into and robbed while in Spain at the European Poker Tour Barcelona tournament.

Turns out one of the victims – Finnish poker player Jens ‘Jeans’ Kyllönen – was unable to get into his room initially with his key card and had to go to the hotel’s front desk to have it recoded. Once back in his room, he noticed his laptop was missing and checked with his roommate down in  the casino to see if he had perhaps borrowed it. When said roommate said “no” – Kyllönen returned to his room to find the laptop once again in place.

Naturally, Kyllönen turned on his laptop and immediately saw a warning saying it had been tampered with. He then went out, and when he came back, the entire scenario with the inoperable key card was repeated, as well as the laptop once again having gone missing. This time, the missing laptop got turned in to security (who you’d think would have noted who turned it in by now). This time, the laptop started up okay, but did not ask for a password: always a scary thing.

At this point, hotel security itself began to become suspect. Kyllönen discovered that another Finn had been the subject of an almost identical manuever involving the comings and goings of laptops, and apparently it was  even more widespread than that. Putting their heads together, the players began to suspect that someone who knew when hotel guests were out of their rooms created a master plan to install Trojan software that would be able to read the players’ hole cards during online play, and that could even capture their passwords to any number of online accounts.

Police involvement eventually revealed the laptop thief in flagrante delicto on a video image.  No word on exactly how this all played out, but common sense would dictate that no one – let alone high-stakes poker players – should be leaving sensitive electronics easily accessible in their hotel rooms when they travel.

The Japanese case was a bit different and even odder. High-stakes player Masaaki Kagawa was ultimately one of nine men arrested in Japan for a bizarre Android malware scam. In it, 37 million stolen email addresses led to some $3.9 million in fake dating site fees pulled in when the email addressees were invited to join the fake site for a fee, leading to the unsurprising conclusion that what mostly mingles on dating sites are your money and everyone else’s.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?

Obviously, nothing is 100 percent foolproof, but if you’re a poker player – particularly one who travels with your laptop – there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and your information. The obvious Number One thing would be, don’t leave your laptop unattended in a hotel room, or give it to anyone you don’t know or trust.

Another good idea is to have a “poker only” laptop, so that if it should happen to get hacked, at least criminals won’t have access to all your other sensitive information as well.

Finally, and perhaps most obviously, invest in both anti-malware and top security software to protect your computer, and change passwords frequently.