Entries Tagged "casinos"

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Predicting a Slot Machine's PRNG

Wired is reporting on a new slot machine hack. A Russian group has reverse-engineered a particular brand of slot machine — from Austrian company Novomatic — and can simulate and predict the pseudo-random number generator.

The cell phones from Pechanga, combined with intelligence from investigations in Missouri and Europe, revealed key details. According to Willy Allison, a Las Vegas­-based casino security consultant who has been tracking the Russian scam for years, the operatives use their phones to record about two dozen spins on a game they aim to cheat. They upload that footage to a technical staff in St. Petersburg, who analyze the video and calculate the machine’s pattern based on what they know about the model’s pseudorandom number generator. Finally, the St. Petersburg team transmits a list of timing markers to a custom app on the operative’s phone; those markers cause the handset to vibrate roughly 0.25 seconds before the operative should press the spin button.

“The normal reaction time for a human is about a quarter of a second, which is why they do that,” says Allison, who is also the founder of the annual World Game Protection Conference. The timed spins are not always successful, but they result in far more payouts than a machine normally awards: Individual scammers typically win more than $10,000 per day. (Allison notes that those operatives try to keep their winnings on each machine to less than $1,000, to avoid arousing suspicion.) A four-person team working multiple casinos can earn upwards of $250,000 in a single week.

The easy solution is to use a random-number generator that accepts local entropy, like Fortuna. But there’s probably no way to easily reprogram those old machines.

Posted on February 8, 2017 at 6:48 AMView Comments

Consumer Manipulation

Tim Harford talks about consumer manipulation:

Consider, first, confusion by design: Las Vegas casinos are mazes, carefully crafted to draw players to the slot machines and to keep them there. Casino designers warn against the “yellow brick road” effect of having a clear route through the casino. (One side effect: it takes paramedics a long time to find gamblers in cardiac arrest; as Ms Schüll also documents, it can be tough to get the slot-machine players to assist, or even to make room for, the medical team.)

Most mazes in our economy are metaphorical: the confusion of multi-part tariffs for mobile phones, cable television or electricity. My phone company regularly contacts me to assure me that I am on the cheapest possible plan given my patterns of usage. No doubt this claim can be justified on some narrow technicality but it seems calculated to deceive. Every time I have put it to the test it has proved false.

I recently cancelled a contract with a different provider after some gizmo broke. The company first told me the whole thing was my problem, then at the last moment offered me hundreds of pounds to stay. When your phone company starts using the playbook of an emotionally abusive spouse, this is not a market in good working order.

This is a security story: manipulation vs. manipulation defense. One of my worries about our modern market system is that the manipulators have gotten too good. We need better security — either technical defenses or legal prohibitions — against this manipulation.

EDITED TO ADD (1/23): More about how cellphone companies rip you off.

Posted on January 23, 2014 at 7:03 AMView Comments

Anti-Cheating Security in Casinos

Long article.

With over a thousand cameras operating 24/7, the monitoring room creates tremendous amounts of data every day, most of which goes unseen. Six technicians watch about 40 monitors, but all the feeds are saved for later analysis. One day, as with OCR scanning, it might be possible to search all that data for suspicious activity. Say, a baccarat player who leaves his seat, disappears for a few minutes, and is replaced with another player who hits an impressive winning streak. An alert human might spot the collusion, but even better, video analytics might flag the scene for further review. The valuable trend in surveillance, Whiting says, is toward this data-driven analysis (even when much of the job still involves old-fashioned gumshoe work). “It’s the data,” he says, “And cameras now are data. So it’s all data. It’s just learning to understand that data is important.”

Posted on February 14, 2013 at 6:32 AMView Comments

Cheating at Casinos with Hidden Cameras

Sleeve cameras aren’t new, but they’re now smaller than ever and the cheaters are getting more sophisticated:

In January, at the newly opened $4-billion Cosmopolitan casino in Las Vegas, a gang called the Cutters cheated at baccarat. Before play began, the dealer offered one member of the group a stack of eight decks of cards for a pre-game cut. The player probably rubbed the stack for good luck, at the same instant riffling some of the corners of the cards underneath with his index finger. A small camera, hidden under his forearm, recorded the order.

After a few hands, the cutter left the floor and entered a bathroom stall, where he most likely passed the camera to a confederate in an adjoining stall. The runner carried the camera to a gaming analyst in a nearby hotel room, where the analyst transferred the video to a computer, watching it in slow motion to determine the order of the cards. Not quite half an hour had passed since the cut. Baccarat play averages less than six cards a minute, so there were still at least 160 cards left to play through. Back at the table, other members of the gang were delaying the action, glancing at their cellphones and waiting for the analyst to send them the card order.

Posted on August 23, 2011 at 5:44 AMView Comments

Detecting Cheating at Colleges

The measures used to prevent cheating during tests remind me of casino security measures:

No gum is allowed during an exam: chewing could disguise a student’s speaking into a hands-free cellphone to an accomplice outside.

The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desk tops so that anyone trying to photograph the screen—using, say, a pen with a hidden camera, in order to help a friend who will take the test later—is easy to spot.

Scratch paper is allowed—but it is stamped with the date and must be turned in later.

When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student’s real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence.

Lots of information on detecting cheating in homework and written papers.

Posted on July 9, 2010 at 6:34 AMView Comments

Casino Hack

Nice hack:

Using insider knowledge the two hacked into software that controlled remote betting machines on live roulette wheels, the report said.

The machines would print out winning betting slips regardless of the results on the wheel, Peterborough Today said.

I’d like to know how they got caught.

EDITED TO ADD (4/17): They got their math wrong:

However, the scheme came unstuck after an alert cashier noticed a winning slip for £600 for a £10 bet at odds of 35-1. The casino launched an investigation that unearthed a string of other suspicious bets, traced back to Ashley and Bhagat, IT contractors working at the casino at the time of the scam.

Posted on March 17, 2010 at 6:33 AMView Comments

Computer Card Counter Detects Human Card Counters

All it takes is a computer that can track every card:

The anti-card-counter system uses cameras to watch players and keep track of the actual “count” of the cards, the same way a player would. It also measures how much each player is betting on each hand, and it syncs up the two data points to look for patterns in the action. If a player is betting big when the count is indeed favorable, and keeping his chips to himself when it’s not, he’s fingered by the computer… and, in the real world, he’d probably receive a visit from a burly dude in a bad suit, too.

The system reportedly works even if the gambler intentionally attempts to mislead it with high bets at unfavorable times.

Of course it does; it’s just a signal-to-noise problem.

I have long been impressed with the casino industry’s ability to, in the case of blackjack, convince the gambling public that using strategy equals cheating.

Posted on October 20, 2009 at 6:16 AMView Comments

Comparing the Security of Electronic Slot Machines and Electronic Voting Machines

From the Washington Post.

Other important differences:

  • Slot machine are used every day, 24 hours a day. Electronic voting machines are used, at most, twice a year — often less frequently.
  • Slot machines involve money. Electronic voting machines involve something much more abstract.
  • Slot machine accuracy is a non-partisan issue. For some reason I can’t fathom, electronic voting machine accuracy is seen as a political issue.

Posted on December 24, 2008 at 6:02 AMView Comments

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.