The Super Bowl is coming soon, and with sports betting apps now at our fingertips because of the law legalizing sports betting in the state of Arizona, this billion-dollar industry is about to make even more money. There are many options to choose from; Fanduel is the biggest and most advertised, but there are also Caesars Sportsbook, Draftkings and BetMGM, just to name a few. They allow you to place bets on teams and games, on a win/lose as well as betting on the spread of the game, with just the click of a button.
Other than the typical gambling risks, these apps are so new that there must be questions about the safety of the apps and the information needed to place these bets, as well as cashing out if you win or choose to do so before you lose.
According to BetMGM, they collect personal information including bank information, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, and telephone numbers, but state on their website that they do share information they collect for marketing and non-marketing purposes. There are ways to opt out of the sharing of your information, but it is a process, and most people won’t take the time to do so. Their website also states that while their servers are protected by firewalls and other security measures to protect against the theft of personal information, in the world of technology the hackers are getting better and better. According to a research team for Fierce Wireless, they had a 92% success rate in hacking apps across all platforms including Google, Microsoft, and iOS. The success of hacking apps should spotlight how, as a society, we need to be extremely particular when inputting personal information into these apps. Even if you cancel your account, the BetMGM app will continue to store your information for as long as legally necessary, and I am sure that other apps have this same clause in their disclosures. This vague description does not give much comfort when it comes to who has access to important personal information.
Along with the risks of inputting information and that information being hacked, there are the continued risk of phishing, scams, and impersonations online and of these apps that are out there. We are all aware of the email versions of these types of scams, but as technology continues to evolve and we become more and more attached to our smartphones and apps, these risks will follow. Awareness of this risk is the best form of defense. According to ZeroFox, the easiest way to spot this is the guarantee of winning, or a risk free buy in, we all know gambling is not risk free, which is the fun of it sometimes.
Professor Aaron Jones is the Program Champion of Cyber at the University of Advancing Technology as well as a leader in the cybersecurity community. For his work he has been the recipient of recognition from the El Paso Police Department, State of Texas, Texas Military Forces, Chandler Police Department, and others. When asked about the betting apps, he offered the following information and caution:
“Russian hackers have deciphered the tools used in slot machines and were able to create a smartphone app that triggered a jackpot on the affected machines. The attacker was earning $250,000 per week but is now leveraging his skills to earn millions from his schemes.
However, there are new laws being added to address data security practices and personal information has become a major piece of the privacy and business security matrix. We are seeing new expansion of legalized sports betting and online gaming which is now creating new opportunities as well as challenges for the wide array of stakeholders who control this industry.
We can expect to see both large profits for the companies as well as some very major attacks before the industry settles. It is inevitable that something will happen as the bad guys are realizing that there is plenty of money to be made.”
On top of the technological risks, the risk of gambling addiction plays a role as well. In order to entice you in, the apps offer first time match bonuses and free money when you sign up, but these apps will easily make up the money they lose in these promotions. While the apps are not rigged for you to lose, they make a commission on your bets and the odds are against you to win, as they are with any sort of gambling, and this gambling is just much easier because it is so accessible. So moral of the story is—always be careful when gambling. Just because it’s accessible doesn’t mean you will maintain control of it, and you must protect yourself; these companies only want your money.
Overall, betting apps are new and exciting for those who love to bet on their favorite team to win or on their least favorite team to lose, but they come with some risks beyond just losing money. And while the apps themselves are of no higher risk than any other app on your phone or tablet to being hacked, the lure for hackers is greater because the information provided to the apps is more personal, therefore there is a higher profit for the hackers once they get into the apps. In the end, be careful and do everything possible to protect yourself, because a bet is always a gamble.
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