How secure is our money kept in an account of online bookmakers? Are we really at risk of someone gaining unauthorized access to our private data and emptying our betting accounts?

I received an email by a punter, worrying of his online wealth; a topic that certainly keeps a lot of bettors worried. I thought it would be a good idea to share my view on this topic with everyone, although I’m far from the security expert we’d need for this article. And there’s no better expert than a hacker himself! The chances, however, for a hacker to comment on the article, explaining all the malicious methods that can be used to access our online accounts, are too small!

Moving money online for the last decade

To begin with, I must say that I have opened so far numerous accounts online at several bookmakers, betting exchanges and poker rooms to name a few (here’s my poker story). Furthermore, my online e-wallets with Moneybookers, Paypal, Neteller and other services are dated back when typing credit card numbers online seemed like handing your hard-earned money to a complete stranger.

My opinion is based on firsthand experiences, during a very large number of deposits and withdrawals throughout my advantage gambling career.

Maybe I am the lucky one, who had zero security issues affecting his money so far. Yet, I don’t live under a rock. A friend recently told me an unpleasant story of someone losing €10,000 out of an internet account. Although, it could be an isolated incident, stories like that must teach us a lesson. No need to fall victim to online theft, in order to understand the security risks of having money in internet accounts.

History of putting online accounts in danger

I must admit that there are not so many cases of an intruder gaining access to online private data (email including, read this famous story of Gmail and identity theft).  From time to time though, I hear about scams, particularly in online poker, where a hacker gets hold of players’ passwords, and uses this information to set fake heads-up games leading the unsuspected players to lose money without even knowing it.

Of course, such obvious manipulation of poker games is completely detectable by online poker rooms, as they keep track of everything happening in their servers.  In most cases, money is returned to the accounts and malicious players are tracked and arrested as they would have to withdraw the money eventually.

There’s also a case of a well-known poker player, who indeed lost his capital. But that was only because an envious person wanted to cause personal damage and harm the specific player, with no concern of actually stealing his money.

In general, when security issues arise in online betting, it is often a matter of access to online accounts by third-party programs.  These applications may request the use of personal data, such as usernames and passwords, to access the online account of the user. As these programs provide the ability to automatically submit bets via their interface among other functions, it is impossible to complete the process without complete access to the bettor’s account.

Two solutions in these cases are to:

  1. Either remove the applications from the official website of bookmakers and betting exchanges, or
  2. Simply don’t use them.

It is also a good idea to opt for credible websites and software vendors, instead of trusting those heavily promoted services that were born just a few weeks ago.

5 tips to protect your money online

Meanwhile, if we are talking about the actual security issues involved when accessing your very own online accounts with bookmakers, you should rather pay attention on the following 5 tips:

  1. The biggest risk of your password being revealed comes with key-logger programs installed silently without any warning or indication when you visit… shady websites.  These programs record every key that you press on keyboard by creating a simple text file, which is then sent to the hacker. Besides using antivirus and other security programs, a useful workaround is to have your password already written in a document.  You should then copy and paste the code whenever you sign into your online account.
  2. Furthermore, you should never use a device you do not own or a shared computer to log onto your bookmaker account.  You could never know how safe your friend’s computer is.
  3. security-token
    Pokerstars Security Token [Flickr]
    Some companies provide – sometimes free – a small unit which generates random numbers, similar to those used in web banking, called security token. Without this number, even knowing your password, the hacker will not be able to access your account. Such a process is used when accessing Pokerstars for instance.
  4. Do not keep all your usernames and passwords in a text file, such as Word, for example.  Even worse, do not name the file “Passwords”!  But even if you do, you should enter random characters mixed with each code, which you will later remove upon entering your details online.
  5. Do not keep lots of money in rarely used online accounts just to satisfy your ego. If somehow hackers know that you don’t have a lot of money, they would not take the risk to attack your account and you’ll fall off their radar.

How can a hacker know?  In the modern high-tech era, information is accessed at the speed of light, not to mention the tendency of some players to never keep their mouth shut and brag about their huge winnings and their enormous online accounts. Restrain yourself from sharing sensitive data publicly and you’ll have nothing to worry about.