Since the first online poker hand was dealt on Planet Poker in 1998, online poker has grown into a multibillion-dollar industry. Poker has recently experienced a surge in popularity, with the largest prize pool ever seen in March 2020. Pokerstars celebrated the 14th Anniversary of the Sunday Million with a $17 million prize pool! With so much money moving around online, security becomes a concern for both websites and players.
The main goal for players when playing poker is to win and increase their bankroll. This frequently results in large sums of money being held online, particularly in poker accounts, making it a lucrative industry for cybercriminals to target. Many players have lost money because their opponents could spy on their hole cards or because of other security flaws.
As an online poker player, you must take several precautions to ensure your safety while playing. But first, it is critical to understand the risks associated with online gaming. These dangers are classified into two types:
- Risks that fall under the purview of the online poker room (game host)
- Risks that are the player’s responsibility
Online poker rooms are client-server software players download and use to connect to the server. Unlike in a live game where only you have access to your cards, online poker requires the server to identify all cards involved in order to inform the client on which cards it should award each player.
As a result, it is obvious that the server “sees” your cards before you can even see them. This means that people who control the server may have access to your hole cards. If the person is playing with you, they will undoubtedly have an insurmountable advantage over you. To help reduce the risk, players should only play on the most trustworthy sites.
INTEGRITY OF ONLINE POKER SITES
Before depositing money online, one thing you can do as a player researches the site you intend to play on. To confirm the site’s legitimacy, scout around, including searching forums and reading site reviews.
Higher-traffic sites are more likely to be trustworthy regarding game integrity. For example, Poker Scout is a website that provides useful poker site traffic reports. Furthermore, sites with professional marketing campaigns and notable ambassadors are more likely to be trustworthy. TopPokerValue, which aims to find the best site for your game type and playing schedule, also has a list of great online poker sites.
CYBERSECURITY RISKS ARE THE PLAYER’S RESPONSIBILITY
As a player, your security while playing online poker may be jeopardized if the computer you are using is unsafe or has been hacked. It is, therefore, your responsibility to ensure that the computer on which you play is secure. Computer software can cause harm in a variety of ways. It can keep track of your hole cards, password, and activity on the virtual felt.
Compromised software can also intercept your online activities and execute remote-controlled commands via a remote controller. In short, a compromised device can cost a player money in various ways.
Fortunately, there are numerous steps a player can take to reduce the risk of internet theft and protect themselves and their poker accounts.
WAYS FOR A POKER PLAYER TO STAY SAFE WHILE PLAYING ONLINE POKER
Only sometimes trust the free antivirus program you installed or the one that came pre-installed with the operating system. Choose a more powerful anti-malware security suite that protects against keyloggers, Trojans, viruses, worms, spam, and identity theft.
A good security suite will prevent intruders from gaining access to your machine. Remember that paid services are always more frequently updated, so you are usually protected from the most recent threats. They are also automatically updated, so you don’t have to remember to install the most recent malware definitions.
USE DURABLE PASSWORDS
A hacker will have no trouble breaking into an account whose password is “password” or “poker”! It goes without saying that a strong password is required for all of your online accounts, not just your online poker account. A strong password contains at least seven to eight characters and a mix of symbols, numbers, and letters, as well as lower and upper case.
If you prefer to use just words instead of this combination, remember that one-word passwords are easier to crack than multiple-word ones. Use something like “blueskyforever” instead of “bluesky.” Even better, you can add a symbol or number to it to make it even more powerful.
You can use a password manager to generate and store random passwords if you have trouble creating strong passwords. Passwords should not be reused, and each poker site you visit should have a unique, randomly generated password. Also, make sure to change your passwords regularly.
Having a separate email address for poker is also beneficial. This will prevent someone from accessing your poker account even if they hack your other email accounts.
IMPLEMENT TWO-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Two-factor authentication, also known as two-step authentication, requires you to enter a code usually sent as a text message to your phone, displayed in an app, or on a physical token in addition to your username and password. This adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. Before you can access the account fully, you must enter the short, randomly generated confirmation code.
Some poker sites send a small widget with a screen, such as Pokerstars’ RSA SecureID Token. This is an excellent way to add an extra layer of security to your account.
DO NOT USE PUBLIC WI-FI NETWORKS TO ACCESS POKER ACCOUNTS.
We all enjoy the free and readily available public Wi-Fi networks found in hotel and airport lobbies, as well as at the local coffee shop. However, these networks are notoriously unsafe and should not be used for online poker, shopping, or banking.
While some Wi-Fi hotspots, such as “McDonald’s” or “Hilton,” may appear to be legitimate, nearby criminals can create shady networks that include the name of the hotel, store, or airport and use them to direct data to their devices. Always double-check the network name to ensure that it matches the establishment’s name before logging in.
Otherwise, avoid entering sensitive information like your poker account password while connected to public Wi-Fi.
If you intend to travel frequently, purchasing a pay-as-you-go Wi-Fi device or dongle to create your own network is best. You can also connect your laptop to your smartphone and use it as a Wi-Fi network, especially if your data plan is unlimited. Another option is to use public Wi-Fi while encrypting your data with a VPN, as explained in the following point.
APPLY A VPN
A VPN is a great way to keep data secure and private. If you need to access your poker site while using public Wi-Fi, or if you want to remain anonymous to your local provider, use a VPN to encrypt your data so that no prying eyes can access it.
Even if you have your own wired or wireless network, a VPN is an important tool to have. This is because a VPN makes determining your true IP address and location difficult.
Many players have begun using VPNs to play online poker on GGNetwork from locations such as Australia and the United States. This creates a very dependable, secure connection, allowing poker players to participate in daily cash games and tournaments. So, confirm your city or province’s regulations and be aware of the risks.
Check the terms and conditions of the site. And, for those venturing online, be wary of cheap or free VPN solutions, as they rarely provide complete security and may expose your information. You can still find a VPN that is both reliable and affordable, such as ExpressVPN. For those who want to play poker anonymously, ExpressVPN also works well with sites like GGN.
BEWARE OF SUSPICIOUS-APPEARING EMAILS OR IMS.
To keep your online poker account or any other online account safe, avoid clicking on links attached to unfamiliar emails, no matter how genuine or appealing they appear. Logging onto the website usually yields information or promotions. If you receive any communication from a website that you are unsure of, it is best to terminate the communication.
This includes information received via instant messaging, phone call, or email. You can always contact the company’s support to confirm they contacted you. Remember that no company or website should ever request PINs or passwords, and you should never give them out to family or friends.
STOP ACTING AS THE ADMINISTRATOR
Another option for reducing security risks is to play on a computer for which you do not have administrative privileges. This way, it will be difficult for someone to install a program on your device while you are playing poker.
Setting up another account outside of the PC’s admin is a simple process, and you can name it “poker” and log into it before you start playing.
It’s worth noting that some companies, such as PokerShield.com, are developing “virtual machine” solutions, which will allow you to boot your operating system directly from a USB or CD. The system will then divide your device’s operating system into two programs, allowing you to use one for online poker and the other for the rest of your computer activities.
Another option, especially for high-stakes players, is to play on a dedicated ‘poker computer.’ This machine should not be used for anything other than poker. Install only the tools you’ll need, such as ICM calculators or tracking software. Consider transferring the files via a USB stick before installing the poker client.
This way, you can ensure that nothing harmful enters your computer. If you want to use Skype or visit other websites, you should do so on a different machine to avoid compromising your PC.
BEWARE OF SKYPE/CHAT PROGRAMS
It is recommended that you refrain from adding strangers to your chat programs. Skype, for example, can leave you vulnerable to attacks. An IP address is easily discovered, and you may unintentionally receive a virus or trojan or create an access point for a hacker. Only add immediate friends and associates to your chat programs to avoid this.
BE AWARE OF PERSONAL SECURITY
As you continue to play online poker, you will undoubtedly make many friends through online contact and forums. Even if you think you know a lot about someone, it’s still a good idea to be cautious when meeting them, especially at home. First, ensure your guests do not have access to your poker equipment and never give them access to your accounts.
Be especially cautious if you have recently had a large win or received media attention. It should be noted that several people have been put in danger as a result of their poker success.
Most notably, WSOP champion Jonathan Duhamel. Robbers broke into his Montreal home, tied him up, beat him, and stole his WSOP bracelet, a Rolex watch, and more than $100,000 in cash. If you believe you are in danger, you should seek advice from the police or a security firm.
To summarize, while some of the threats online poker players face are caused by poker site servers, the majority of the risks are caused by the players themselves. Risks include someone breaking into a device and viewing your cards while you play or a hacker gaining access to your poker account and stealing money.
So, be cautious when playing online and consider taking precautions to protect yourself and your money. We must all learn the most important lesson to prioritize both online and offline security. Unfortunately, there are people out there who have the necessary knowledge and intent to take advantage of poor security. The more difficult it is for others to access your information, the safer you will be, not just in online poker but in life.
It would be extremely upsetting to discover that your account has been hacked and all of your hard-earned money has been stolen. So it’s up to you to take all necessary precautions to stay safe.
The steps outlined above will raise awareness about online security and aid in the fight against cyber-criminals and online attacks.
So players can unwind and concentrate on what matters most: winning!