DDoS Attacks Again Plague Winning Poker Network, ACR

Updated: April 30th, 2018 by Dev Ops

In a recurrence of a past difficulty, DDoS attacks are again crippling the traffic capabilities of the offshore, US-facing Winning Poker Network (WPN) and its member online poker sites, including WPN’s flagship offering Americas Cardroom (ACR).

The recent attacks against WPN and ACR began on Tuesday, April 24th, and have continued intermittently over the past seven days, most often during the site’s and network’s prime traffic hours. Site and network executives have been adamant in their refusal to pay the attacker’s extortion demands.

Though annoying and frustrating to ACR and WPN players, the attacks bring no direct financial risk to those players. Winning Poker Network tournaments affected by the denial-of-service attacks, which flood the gaming servers and slow legitimate traffic to a crawl, have been cancelled wherever affected, with entry money refunded in full to willing but disappointed players.

ACR and WPN have been the most frequent victims of such attacks over the past three and a half years, though they’re far from the only such victims. DDoS extortionists have traditionally targeted online gambling offerings, usually attempting to inflict damages during high-traffic periods or during special events. For ACR,this has resulted in the cancellation of several of their Million Dollar Sundays (MDS) tourneys, which feature a $1,000,001 prize pool, but online sportsbooks, to cite another example, often experience such attacks before the Super Bowl or during the World Cup.

Nor does the status of the Winning Poker Network and Americas Cardroom as a so-called “grey market” offering stand as the sole indicator of being targeted by such attacks, though it might increase the likelihood of such a site or network being targeted. (WPN and ACR are based in Costa Rica, which has little international legal muscle to pursue DDoS extortionists from other jurisdictions.) Fully-licensed and regulated offerings — even within the US — have also been targeted, such as a high-profile series of DDoS attacks that floored PartyPoker’s New Jersey offerings back in 2016.

A check of ACR’s Twitter account, where the onset of each known attack has been announced to the site’s players, shows that at least seven or eight sustained attack waves have occurred. Beginning last Tuesday:

The attacks are the first since last September, when a similar wave forced the cancellation of a number of major ACR tournaments and part of an ongoing online-poker series. At the time, WPN CEO Philip Nagy accused an unnamed “rival site” of hiring a hacker to conduct the attacks.

Those accusations stemmed from several ACR players confronting the attacker in ACR’s online chat, where he’d taken to announcing the start of each DDoS attack before beginning it. When besieged by the players, the attacked declared that it was his job, that he’d been hired to attack ACR.

Whether this latest series of attacks is being conducted by the same attacker or attackers or is being done on behalf of a “rival” site (if those prior allegations and claims were indeed true) remains unknown. What is known is that the experience continues to be frustrating to players, even if the attacks ultimately end in the near future, as they have in prior waves.

As an update on the ACR blog noted, “This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced these attacks, and we’re sure it won’t be the last. Our DDoS mitigation team is working around the clock to mitigate the attacks, and we’ll continue to work tirelessly until all systems are online and we continue to provide you with an excellent gameplay environment, just as we did the times before.

“We greatly appreciate your patience while we deal with this issue. Depending on the status of the mitigation, some events in the tournament schedule may be cancelled while we gain full control of the situation.”

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