An incident that occurred to an online poker playing member of a poker users group got me to thinking about security issues. It seems that this player has an account on FullTiltPoker.Com and when he attempted to log in, he got a message saying that there were six previous attempts to log into his account. He wondered how such a thing could happen. Well, here are some of my thoughts as to how that may have happened.
This user group (I am also a member) has user profiles that also can allow a user to list their screen name from any of the poker sites that they subscribe to. This is done for two reasons: one is that the site gives their members freerolls and special tourneys to just members only; two – it makes it easier for other members to find a player at a certain site. On the surface, this is not a big deal.
EXCEPT … when someone has larceny as their motive, having access to the user-name makes it that much easier to try and hack into a users poker account. Some people use very simple passwords and some thieves use password crackers (software that tries to break their password). If the thief (hacker) is successful, they might try to withdraw the money or find some way to get it. They might be able to get to the cashier tools and direct deposit it to their account.They could be in collusion with someone and go head to head and just lose to the other person.
Things you can do to increase your security or limit your losses
Better passwords – Try to use at least a twelve character passwords that contains at least one Uppercase letter and at least one number. If allowed, use a special character such as an exclamation mark, etc. If spaces are allowed in the password, you might even try to use a small phrase that is easy to remember such as “i hate fish”. Even something as simple as that is hard to crack because a phrase with spaces in it, unlike a password, has too many possibilities for a hacker or thief to consider. As a rule, never use birthdays, anniversaries, children’s names, pet names or easy to guess words like “password”. (You would be surprised about how many people use “password” as a password).
Maintain a special checking account – Never use your household checking account to either send or receive money to online sites. Even your PayPal account should be linked to a special account you maintain just for online activity. You should maintain as low a balance in that account as possible, transferring money to it from savings or other accounts only as needed. Most banks allow for online banking so you should be able to have your “online activity account”, your household account, and your savings account available and separated from each other. In this way, you limit the amount that you can lose should your online poker account or paypal account become compromised.
Limit the amounts maintained on Poker sites – Depending on the type of games you play and your results, you should consider limiting the amount of money that any site holds for you. For example, if you like to play in tourneys that have a $5 buy-in and you play about 10 tourneys a week, keep about $50 maximum in your poker account. If you are a winning player, make sure that you transfer your profits to your online checking account set up for just that purpose only and then transfer some of that to a savings or other checking account that does not get used by PayPal or the online sites. This will keep your exposure down to just what you have at that site.
By the way, if you think I am being paranoid, you are most certainly right. It turns out that identity theft is the hottest way for third world gangsters and thieves to make a quick buck. And you thought that the stock market was the fastest way to see your money disappear, let alone bad poker playing decisions. Please feel free to add your thoughts, ideas and concerns to this topic.
Photo Credit: mary hodder