Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
The Melbourne Cup is likely to see record betting activity this year, both on track and online. With growing numbers of gamblers now able to place bets 24/7 via the Internet, mobile phones or interactive televisions, AVG (AU/NZ) Pty Ltd, the distributor of the award-winning AVG Internet and mobile security software in Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, alerts punters to potential risks when betting online.

Selecting an online betting site should be done very carefully so as not to inadvertently send credit card and personal details to underworld operators. AVG (AU/NZ) is aware of too many instances where the personal details of online gamblers are being traded. At its most innocuous, these identity details are sold within the international online gambling industry and used to promote other gambling sites and services. At its most dangerous, organised crime syndicates use them to create new identities, card skimming and other fraudulent activities.

Michael McKinnon, security advisor to AVG (AU/NZ), says: “While you’re engrossed in the fun of the bet, don’t shut off your awareness to the threat of cyber crime.”

In a recent submission to the ‘Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform: Inquiry into the Prevalence of Interactive and Online Gambling in Australia’, Dr Sally Gainsbury from Southern Cross University and Professor Alex Blaszczynski of the University of Sydney quantify why there are growing issues.

The submission cites Global Betting and Gaming Consultants’ estimation that “Australians will spend $611 million on online sports betting in 2011, representing a 230 percent increase from 2006”. It identifies online sports betting as being particularly popular among young men. And large sums are expected to be spent on offshore sites that have fewer restrictions.

According to the submission, as of June 2011 “approximately 2,443 online gambling sites exist, 92 percent of which are available to Australians. Betting dominates this online market, accounting for approximately 41 percent. And there are 150 different payment methods offered by sites accepting bets from Australia, with new payment methods being developed for use on commercial sites such as Facebook and iTunes.”

McKinnon understands that the greater the amounts of money involved, the greater the attraction for organised cyber crime.

The current review of Australia’s regulations and the online gambling industry being undertaken by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy is unlikely to be able to provide failsafe protections.

In 2010, the online gambling firm Betfair suffered a major cyber attack in the UK. It saw the theft of 3.1 million account names with encrypted security questions, 2.9 million user names and 90,000 account usernames with bank account details. While Betfair believed that, due to the levels of encryption, none of the data was usable, the incident highlights how online gambling is now well and truly within the sights of criminal enterprises.

The Australian Government’s SCAMwatch web site has warned in previous Spring racing seasons to be cautious of sports arbitrage schemes that involve placing bets with the intention of making a profit regardless of the result. It advises against “investing in expensive betting schemes and software packages which make false claims of guaranteed winnings.”

Ten Sure Bets to Protect Your Identity and Transactions

McKinnon advises protecting your privacy and safeguarding your personal information must be front of mind before you commit to any online betting or gambling site, or click through on an offer:

1. Reduce your levels of risk by using well-established sites with links to local organisations and which are regulated by Australian laws. Check out the fine print at the bottom of the home page and read the privacy and security information — a nuisance though that may be.

2. You can protect yourself further by opening a credit card or debit account which you use specifically for online transactions and keep separate from your other accounts.

3. Be wary of sign-on incentives, what you agree to and what you may be asked to click through to. Don’t sign-up if the site claims the profits are ‘tax free’, or requests payment via affiliated overseas companies “so you don’t have to pay GST”.

4. To identify the most trustworthy betting sites, ensure your online bookmaker uses a minimum 128-bit SSL encrypted security for all transactions and bets. Look for URLs which begin with https:// — the ‘s’ signifies security. A green Internet address bar indicates the site has this “extended validation SSL certificate” for safe processing of personal data as it is controlled by the authority that granted the certificate, not by the web site owner. This helps to stop the green bar being abused or used inappropriately for phishing and online fraud.

5. To protect your personal information and computer or mobile device, install and maintain up-to-date anti-virus and Internet security protection software. The latter should include enhanced firewall and identity protection software components.

6. In the new era of M-commerce, mobile devices have the full power of PCs. Last year’s Melbourne Cup saw the arrival of the first iPhone app for betting on the event — do you have security software operating on your phone, especially when using public Wi-Fi?

7. It is also vital to have a web scanning layer of protection that notifies you when a web page is malicious. The free AVG LinkScanner® software dynamically scans web pages in real-time, before they open in your browser, to ensure they are threat free and from genuine sites.

8. You also need to be aware of the risks to your children if they find themselves in an online gambling site. There are no proof of age restrictions online, all they need is access to your credit card.

9. Use a very strong password when creating an online betting or gambling account — at least 8 characters (longer is better), being a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters. Change the password at least once every 6 months. You don’t want some ’colourful online racing identity’ gaining access and using your account.

10. Do all of your online betting or gaming from a secure Internet connection. You should never use a public computer or a public, unsecured Wi-Fi network to do online transactions such as logging into online accounts, placing bets or making payments. Such sensitive online transactions should only happen when you’re using a secure connection on a properly secured PC or mobile device.

McKinnon concludes: “Let the adrenalin hit be from the fun of the bet, not the nasty realisation that you’ve signed yourself up to identity theft, scams or spam.”

Should you wish to report suspicious or unscrupulous behaviour by an online gambling site, you can report it to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) at [email protected]

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