It had been a while, but America’s Cardroom seemed due for another cyber attack. Yup, leading into the Labor Day weekend, ACR and its network, the Winning Poker Network, were hit with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, something that is unfortunately not a unique event for either the online poker room or the network.
The attack began Thursday evening, affecting, among many other games, ACR’s Online Super Series (OSS) Cub3d. Problems continued all the way through Saturday.
America’s Cardroom initially tweeted about the issues at about quarter after eight Thursday night, writing, “We are currently experiencing a DDOS attack, all running tournaments have been paused. Will keep you updated.”
A half hour later, ACR announced that it was cancelling all tournaments in progress and providing refunds per the site’s terms and conditions. At about 9:00pm, the site was back up, but the DDoS attacks continued, causing poker client interruptions less than two and a half hours later. Problems continued well into Friday morning until ACR and WPN finally got things under control (temporarily) close to noon.
The pattern continued that evening, with games going down after 6:00pm Friday and then resuming, and going down again after 7:00pm. Finally, around noon Saturday, ACR’s techs seemed to get a handle on things “for good.”
In a Distributed Denial of Service attack, the attacker (or attackers) floods a server with millions of communications requests at once. It’s not a virus or a hack or anything malicious like that, but the communications overwhelm the server and grind it to a halt. Think of it like the traffic jam to end all traffic jams.
It wouldn’t be THAT big of a deal if the attack was coming from one source, but since it is “distributed,” the attacker arranges it so that it originates from literally millions of IP addresses. It makes defending one’s network insanely difficult. To use another brilliant illustration, if you are trapped in a house and a zombie horde is coming for your juicy brains, it’s scary and awful, but if all the zombies decide to come in through the front door, you can probably handle it if properly equipped. If they surround you and just crash in through every door, window, and mouse hole like in Night of the Living Dead, might as well develop a taste for human flesh because you’re screwed.
As with other DDoS attacks, the network was contacted by the aggressor, who demanded a ransom of some sort. WPN CEO Phil Nagy went on Twitch and said he refused to cave to any demands. He even posted a brief series of messages from the attacker, who said he was doing it on behalf of a competing poker room (all spelling mistakes what-not his):
this is my job
anouther site give me money
for doos you
and i ddos you
this is my job
Nagy said that he hoped that by at least making it public that it may be another site responsible for the DDoS attack that it will make someone nervous that they could get caught and the attacks will subside.
WPN first experienced a major DDoS attack in December 2014, during its Million Dollar Sunday tournament, when it caused disconnections, lag, and registration problems. It happened again in September 2015 and again in October 2015.
The network will be re-running many of the tournaments, including the OSS and MOSS, and will cut the buy-in of the million dollar guaranteed OSS tourney in half as well as add an extra Sunday Million.