Is it just us, or does it seem like the hackers are winning the war these days? Major hacking meltdowns with Target, Neiman Marcus and other retailers during and after the holidays affected millions of U.S. customers, and now a nearly week-old hack of major casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corporation continues to be a mystery, with all Sands sites still in lockdown mode as of this weekend.
Adelson’s Controversial Views Noted
To backtrack to how it all started, on Tuesday unknown assailants – reportedly opposed to CEO Sheldon Adelson’s views on the Iranian nuclear situation (because who doesn’t want a rogue country to have access to materials for weapons of mass destruction) – figured out how to get into various Sands Internet sites. Casino customers looking for information on a poker room or their dining options at any Sands venues instead saw messages from an “Anti WMD team,” expressing outrage towards Adelson for his always-shy views, including one presented last year in which the casino curmudgeon said the U.S. should set off their own nuclear armaments somewhere in an Iranian desert to show former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or current leader Hassan Rouhani exactly who was really in charge of Planet Earth.
More alarming than the threatening messages, however, were the names, contact info and even the social security numbers of some Sands Bethlehem, Pennsylvania casino employees, detailed out in a scrolling list by a photo image of Adelson with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It also showed where various Sands casinos around the world are located, with the addition of flames tacked onto those located in the United States.
Hovering above the map – and pulling a “who’s the bad guy here, anyway” kind of move – the hackers’ text message read: “Damn A, Don’t let your tongue cut your throat,” while another message at the bottom of the page said, “Encouraging the use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, UNDER ANY CONDITION, is a Crime.”
Right, dudes; sort of like hacking into a major computer site is, as well.
The background of this situ dates back to an October 2013 Adelson speaking appearance in New York, where the outspoken and unabashed friend of Israel said that Iran’s nuclear capabilities were aimed at the Land of Milk and Honey in particular. While few would probably argue with that statement, Adelson’s further rhetoric saying that America should make a power showing by detonating its own bomb somewhere in Iran’s desert, and that it would “not hurt a soul, except for a few rattlesnakes,” might not have been his finest moment.
A Sands spokesman later had to cover his boss’s derriere a bit by saying that the speech was simply “hyperbole to make a point.”
Various Federal and Nevada Agencies Investigate
As of the end of this week, all Sands’ websites were still down, and no statement had been issued by the casino conglomerate. Meanwhile, the FBI, Secret Service and Nevada regulatory officials have all been scrambling to get to the bottom of the hack, even as reports poured in that Sands’ email accounts and even some of their employees’ own work computers had been hit as well. Websites for Sands properties – ranging from Las Vegas and Pennsylvania to Macau and Singapore – remained down with nothing more than bare-bones property names, contact numbers for the resorts and a “maintenance” message.
Late in the week, Nevada’s Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett said his agency was primarily focused on discovering if the hackers had been able to access any Sands’ customer data during the hack – including the possibility of grabbing credit card information. With Sands considered to be one of the largest casino operators on the planet, such a grab could have grave consequences indeed.
Burnett said the initial findings were showing that customer credit card information remained safe as far they could tell for now, but added that the investigation was ongoing and by no means a done deal.
Last December, Las Vegas-based casino outfit Affinity Gaming announced a site hack that compromised the credit card information of potentially 400,000 customers who had used the company’s website, following a hack.