Cyber Attack Shutters 14 Canadian Casinos

April 20, 2023
Andrew Burnett

A cyber attack on one of Canada’s largest gaming companies has resulted in 14 casinos being shut down as cyber-security experts try to restore IT systems.

Gateway Casinos and Entertainment, who operate 31 casinos across British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta, were hit by what they have called “a cybersecurity incident” at roughly 1pm on Sunday afternoon.

The company stated in a press release on Monday: “At this point, we do not have any information indicating that this incident involves any compromise of personal data. However, we are in the process of notifying the relevant privacy officials and gaming regulators of the incident.”

It added: “We have retained third-party cyber professionals who are working 24/7 to help us restore the IT environment. Our utmost concern is the protection of personal data and information.”

The IT outage saw its entire Ontario operation closed down, all 14 gaming properties to remain closed “for the coming” days according to the press release.

This includes casinos at the Western Fair District, Clinton, Chatham, Hanover, Point Edward, Sarnia and Woodstock, with casinos in Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, North Bay, Wasaga Beach, Innisfil and Casino Rama near Orillia also affected.

Rob Mitchell, Gateway’s director of communications and public affairs for eastern Canada, said of the shutdown: “We’re erring on the side of caution to make sure everything is operational.”

According to the Gateway website, the company “currently employs approximately 7,000 people and features approximately 369 table games (including 30 poker tables), 14,284 slots, 95 food and beverage outlets and 564 hotel rooms.

Russians Behind Recent Rise in Cyberattacks say Experts

Though information on the Canadian cyberattack is limited, it comes at a time when such attacks are on the increase, experts believing that Russian “bad actors” are behind many of the cyberattacks on casinos.

David Rees, a cyber expert and executive director and broker at Howden Insurance Brokers, spoke at the recent Cyber Security Summit about an increase in hackers targeting tribal casinos in particular:

“I have to be careful when I say this. I’m not saying all ransomware attacks come from Russia, but a lot of ransomware attacks come from Russia,” said Rees.

He added: “Given what’s going on between Russia and the Ukraine, the drop in frequency was the Russian hackers, who at one point were sitting in an office carrying out ransomware attacks, were finding themselves on the front lines fighting in Ukraine.

Rees claimed it was a popular opinion among experts that Russia’s need for a deep war chest is one of the driving factors in the recent rise in attacks.

“As for why that’s increasing again, if they’re from Russia, one of the things Russia needs at the moment is money to fund the war. That’s the thought process, but it’s shared among quite a few people.”

Rees outlined how the hackers tend to operate in this article here, revealing that they now not only lockdown the site and demand a ransom, but also steal the data in a double-pronged assault.

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