The Herald Sun newspaper in Australia reports that widespread Distributed Denial of Services attacks have crippled a number of leading Aussie sportsbetting websites, possibly costing operators millions in lost bets over a busy weekend that features the final Ashes Test, the World Athletics Championships, Tri Nations rugby and crucial AFL and NFL games.
DDoS attacks are mounted when criminals seek to extort ransoms from websites, using tens of thousands of zombie computers under their control to overwhelm the website with data, thus inducing shutdowns. The criminals behind the attacks obtain control of ordinary computers without the owners even being aware of it by planting malignant viruses.
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Just last week an unidentified 21-year-old Australian was arrested by federal police for assembling and using a zombie computer army.
Sportingbet Australia is one of two interstate bookmakers sabotaged by the DDoS criminals; the other is the emerging operator Sports Alive, which was down for almost all of Friday.
Both Sportingbet Australia and Sports Alive were circumspect in their comments, fearing further attacks.
Sportingbet Australia chief executive Michael Sullivan said he was unsure what caused the biggest interruption to the company's online operation.
"All I can say is that we've got technical difficulties and we're working with our principal providers to restore the site," Sullivan said.
A Sports Alive spokesman said the denial of service was caused by "an unknown person or persons flooding the website".
Terry Lillis, owner of corporate bookmaker Multibet, was a victim of a similar online sabotage in 2004. Multibet was put offline for 24 hours before Lillis received an email demanding payment of $US25 000.
Scotland Yard investigators revealed at the time that 50 other betting agencies across 30 countries had also been made targets. The Russian mafia was linked to the attack.