For the past few years, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks have become the norm in the poker world. Just last week, partypoker admitted that they had been the target of such attacks that have hindered their operations. Now the #1 online poker site in the industry, PokerStars, admits that they have also been targeted by DDoS attacks that have shut down their tournaments.

PokerStars Cancels Tournaments, Reimburses Players…But Problems Persist

Last week, PokerStars issued a tweet that stated they had suffered site outages and had canceled tournaments due to the “series of DDoS attacks” that had targeted their offerings. Last Sunday night, these DDoS attacks had an impact on the weekly running of the Sunday Million as well as a platform of other smaller tournaments at the time. This continued on through last week and PokerStars, despite the best efforts of their technicians, has been unable to stop or even at the minimum curtail the impacts of the attacks.

One thing that PokerStars has done admirably well is quickly reimburse those players affected by the attacks. There has been some discussion, however, about just how much players have received from those refunds. PokerStars’ Terms & Conditions (T&C) clearly state that players will receive a prorated amount dependent on what their chip equity in the tournament at the point of disconnect was – in essence, how many chips a player had – and the percentage of the overall pool the chips counted towards – determined how much of the remaining prize pool said player was eligible for. Many have pointed out, however, that this would be difficult for players to dispute.

Because the attacks were random, there were areas that weren’t affected by the connection issues brought about by the DDoS attacks. As such, those players were able to rack up sizeable stacks by attacking those that saw their ability to play affected by the attacks. Also, players were unable to prove just when their “time of disconnect” was counted, leaving many not happy with the determination by PokerStars but unable to dispute the situation adequately.

Connected to partypoker Attacks?

Whether it is just because of the timing or if there is truth to the subject, the attacks on PokerStars can possibly be connected to those at a major competitor. As reported by my friend and colleague Dan Katz, partypoker suffered from similar DDoS attacks prior to those at PokerStars. As early as August 9 partypoker admitted that they had been hit with a DDoS attack that knocked players offline, froze tournaments, prevented players from accessing the site and participating in the offerings from partypoker.

The problems at partypoker weren’t limited to just one day either. For several days afterwards, partypoker suffered from more attacks. The tech staff was just as harried as those at PokerStars have been as they attempt to prevent such actions from interfering with their business.

What IS a DDoS Attack? What Can Players Do?

Many aren’t quite sure of what a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is. Basically, it is an attack utilizing a blast of communications requests directed at a source computer, server or system. That system may have strong defenses but, faced with a blast of millions of requests simultaneously, the servers in the system cannot keep up and shut down operations to try to limit the requests. Normally these requests come from several outlets, making it difficult to both trace and respond to.

For those that are affected by the DDoS attacks, there isn’t much that can be done. Short of making a personal documentation – video on a cellphone, perhaps – there is little that a player can do to document the pause and/or termination of connections with the poker site servers. And as far as preventing the DDoS attack, not much can be done by players because it isn’t their system that is under siege.

As of this weekend, both partypoker and PokerStars are operating, but the specter of the DDoS attacks rearing their ugly heads will be out there. With the major sites, players don’t have to worry about their accounts as the DDoS attacks aren’t going after any money or information – they are just screwing with the sites and their operation. But it is something that players have to be vigilant against.

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