A cyber-attack against New Jersey online gambling sites this week has been characterized as “hacking” in the mainstream media, which is not necessarily an accurate assessment of what happened.

What actually happened in New Jersey?

The Associated Press characterized the attacks in this way in the lede of its story:

A hacker shut down four New Jersey Internet gambling sites for half an hour last week and threatened more cyberattacks over the holiday weekend unless a ransom was paid using the online currency Bitcoin, authorities said Tuesday.

The sites that were attacked were not identified.

While the person who coordinated the attacks might indeed be a “hacker,” what he or she did was not really “hacking.”

The attacks were “distributed denial of service attacks,” according to New Jersey authorities, which is generally different from “hacking.” In a DDoS attack, someone tries to flood a website or network with traffic so that it can no longer function. When “hacking” occurs, it is generally taken to mean that the network or system has been infiltrated by the attacker.

Hacking or DDoS, does it matter?

While calling something a hack or a DDoS attack might seem like a moot point, to the average person, they conjure up different images. Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove explains:

Outright hacking rarely happens to established online gambling sites with security measures in place. As Grove notes, DDoS attempts can happen and are often temporary.

The difference? DDoS attacks to New Jersey online gambling sites mean you might not be able to play there for a period of time, if you are a customer. But they do not cause your accounts or any money associated with them to be in danger.

DDoS attacks are still a threat

That doesn’t mean that DDoS attacks should be ignored. They are capable of crippling sites for periods of time.

As a story at NJ.com notes, another attack could “negatively impact the targeted casinos, but also all business in Atlantic City who share the same internet service provider.”

But the current threat of attack doesn’t have a huge impact on the end consumer, other than affecting their ability to play at a site.

Photo by Colin used under license CC-BY-SA 4.0

Dustin Gouker

About

Aside from his role as editor at LegalSportsReport.com, Dustin Gouker writes extensively about the legal online gaming and US online poker industries, having played poker recreationally for his entire adult life. He has also covered sports for The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner, among others.