A UK-based online gambling exchange, Sporting Options, was hit by a denial of service attack at the weekend in the latest online extortionist assault against online bookies.
The company's site was rendered inaccessible for 40 hours in an attack timed to coincide with Britain's biggest betting race - the Grand National - and the FA Cup semi-final between Arsenal and Manchester United.
A flood of spurious traffic swamped the site with more than two million connections per second, locking out legitimate users from 8pm on Friday night (2 April) until Sunday (4 April). The site has now been restored to normal operation after remedial security action by Sporting Options and its ISP.
The incident followed threats from extortionists that the site would be brought to its knees unless Ä40,000 was sent to them via Western Union.
A Sporting Options customer service rep told El Reg that it ignored these demands. She said the matter has been turned over to Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit for investigation.
Sporting Options estimates it lost between £10 - 15,000 in commissions because of the attack, the first it has experienced. The exchange has apologised to its 15,000 subscribers for the loss of service.
In an email, Sporting Options assured subscribers that their personal details remain safe despite the attack, which did not affect the integrity of its site.
The Sporting Options extortion attempt follows a series of withering attacks against online bookies in the run up to last month's Cheltenham festival.
William Hill, Britain's second-biggest betting chain, as wgambling sites Totalbet and UKbetting have all been on the receiving end of malicious attack. The modus operandi was the same as that used in pre-Superbowl blits on betting sites earlier this year.
Such attacks have become increasingly commonplace since their first appearance three years ago. The latest spate follows reports last November of Eastern European crime syndicates using threats of computer hacking to extort pay-offs from online businesses in the UK.
Traditional security methods are unlikely to prevent sophisticated distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS), according to security firm Ubizen.
"It is a difficult task to protect yourself against this type of attack," said Bart Vansevenant, director of European security strategies at Ubizen. "These sophisticated hackers are using 'zombie PCs', infected by viruses such as MyDoom and Bagle, to provide a platform from which to launch their attacks. This means law-abiding users and businesses will unwittingly be 'participants' in this criminal activity."
Ubizen advises bookies to create a back-up URL which resides behind an alternative Internet Service Provider (ISP) line to be used in the event of a successful DDoS attack on their main URL. A variety of intrusion prevention and traffic management tools that have come to market in recent months can also help defend against attacks. Vendors advise users to review the deployment of such tools before they get hit. Zone-H