Winamax Hit By Another DDoS Attack
Guess what? It’s fall and online poker sites are in operation. What does that mean? It’s time for the next installment of Distributed Denial of Service Attacks!* The latest DDoS attack was against the French online poker site Winamax this weekend, the second time Winamax has been hit in the last two months.
A Non-Expert’s Bad Explanation of a DDoS Attack
Distributed Denial of Service attacks are interesting in that they aren’t particularly difficult to pull off (given that someone knows what they are doing) and their goal isn’t to hack anything or steal any information, but rather just create disruptions, to create headaches.
In a DDoS attack, the perpetrator initiates a downpour of communications requests to a server, in this case, the online poker server. They are “distributed” in that they emanate from computers in multiple places, often computers that are taken over by the perpetrator without the owners’ knowledge. These computers form a “bot net” of sorts, pinging the poker server relentlessly.
The problem this causes is that the server can’t handle all these requests. Not only is the sheer volume an issue, but it is difficult for the server to filter out bogus requests from legitimate ones. As such, legit communications often get blocked in an attempt to block the DDoS attack or at the very least slowed down. This results in players getting disconnected, tables freezing, lag, reconnection problems, etc. Sites have security in place that often stop the attacks before the players feel the effects, but sometimes the DDoS attacks are too strong.
And Here’s a Terrible Analogy
Think of it like having ten children and trying to have a conversation with your spouse. Each kid, all at once, decide they need your attention right now and start peppering you with questions and demands. You’re still trying to talk to your spouse, but now it’s getting hard to hear his or her responses and you are even having difficulty hearing yourself think. You need your spouse to repeat what they said and your own responses are delayed as you try to process what the hell is going on. Eventually, you just yell, “EVERYONE SHUTUP,” walk out of the room, flop onto the bed, and put a pillow over your head. Everything is shutdown.
And that’s what happened at Winamax. Too many kids were yelling all at once, so the site had to just cancel all of the tournaments and scream into their duvet. On Monday, Winamax Europe posted an apology and explanation titled, “[IMPORTANT] Information regarding this weekend’s disturbances on Winamax,” on its Twitter account:
Winamax was subject to multiple cyberattacks this weekend, which overcharged our servers and forced us to stop the running games.
Some important points:
1/ These malicious acts (called DDoS in computer jargon) are unfortunately common on the Internet and are completely out of our control. These only affect a very small amount of players: the majority of players stay connected and can continue to play as normal. However, in order to keep proceedings fair, and in order for the disconnected players to not be put in an unfavourable position compared to the players who can continue playing, Winamax voluntarily interrupts all tournaments.
2/ Neither the quality of the Winamax servers nor the quality of our cyber security are called into question because of these attacks. They have no impact on the players’ data or funds, which are completely secure.
3/ Players who have been affected by the stoppage will be fully reimbursed to article 3.2 of our Poker Terms and Conditions. Reimbursement will be automatic: you will not need to take any further action.
Preventing this kind of situation from ever recurring is our technical team’s number 1 priority.
We apologise for the issues caused throughout the weekend, and thank you for your patience and understanding.
According to article 3.2 of the terms and conditions, players will be reimbursed in full if a tournament had started but nobody had been eliminated. After that, it gets a little complicated. Basically, if at least one player has been eliminated but the money has not been reached, half the prize pool will be split equally among everyone still remaining and half the prize pool will be split based on chip counts based on the time the DDoS attack began. Rake will be reimbursed.
In the case of a tournament that has reached the money:
• all remaining players will be reimbursed the tournament commission (rake);
• each remaining player will receive an amount corresponding to the next paid place;
• one half of the remaining prize pool will be shared out equally between the remaining players at the time the incident began (the time the incident began will be impartially determined by Winamax),,
• the other half of the remaining prize pool will be shared out according to the number of chips held by each remaining player at the time the incident began (the time the incident began will be impartially determined by Winamax).
There are a few other specific instances discussed (progressive knockout tournaments, flights, Hit & Run tournaments), but we won’t get into those right now.
*I wanted to say “When Distributed Denial of Service Attacks,” but that didn’t make sense.