Protecting Your Online Poker Account

Jacob Perez : May 29th, 2009
Online Poker Hacking

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If you google ‘poker account hacked’, you’ll find no shortage of sad stories from players who have suffered one of the baddest of all beats – someone gaining access to your online poker account and draining all of the funds. While hacking of online poker accounts is still relatively infrequent, the amount of money involved in online poker are such that it’s only a matter of time before players become a more popular target. To that end, here are some simple yet effective tips for preventing the most common types of hack attempts.

When someone’s account is hacked, the fault is almost 100% with the player and not the room. Rooms spend significant amounts of money securing their information, and if a hacker were to manage to breach that wall, it’s even more unlikely that a single user account would be the target. Instead, account hacking generally occurs due to an oversight, accident, or laziness on the part of the account holder. Below are the solutions to the most common leaks the average online poker player has in their personal security plan.

1) Use a Separate Email Account for Online Poker: Gaining access to your email account is one of the easiest ways for someone to gain access to your online poker room accounts. You can make that a far more difficult feat by having a separate email that you only use for online poker accounts and for nothing else. Don’t give the email to anyone, and don’t choose a user name that matches your online poker or online poker forum user names.

2) Strong Passwords, Secure Passwords: A majority of hacks aren’t sophisticated coding triumphs – they’re just logic employed to take advantage of someone else’s inherent laziness. Choosing weak passwords leaves you vulnerable to someone simply guessing your password (that’s how WSOP champ Greg Raymer had his account hacked). A general rule of thumb: if it’s a password that’s easy for you to remember, it’s also easy for someone to guess. Choose a combination of numbers and letters of various cases, and if it absolutely has to be a word or phrase that is familiar to you, butcher it in an unpredictable way.

Of course, choosing strong passwords doesn’t count for much if you don’t keep them secure. Having a password like iIiNt3rN3tp0k3rzZz (no, that’s not my password) doesn’t do you much good if you keep it taped to a post-it on your screen or saved in a text file on your desktop. Consider a password vault application or maybe, you know, trying really hard to remember it.

3) Secure Private Connection > Aircard > Secure Public Connection > Open Public Connection: Wireless internet is excellent, no doubt, and it’s something online poker players rely on, especially when they travel. But using a wireless network brings with it certain risks. Obviously, your home connection should be secured (and not visible), but when you’re forced to use another network, you’re really opening yourself up to some dangers. If you’re off your home network frequently, consider getting an aircard from Sprint or Verizon, as it’s a more secure solution than using the free wifi at a hotel or coffee shop. If you do use a public connection, strongly consider changing all of your passwords once you’re back to a hardline or trusted wireless connection.

4) No Downloads Without Research: This one should be a no-brainer, but every now and again you’ll see a small rash of people who download some shady poker software (usually packaged as a ‘bot’ or some sort of cheating software) and end up with a compromised machine filled with spyware and keyloggers. Not only are these programs generally bullshit, but when they’re not, their use is usually prohibited by the room. Don’t download any poker-related application without a quick post on a major poker forum. Any community (ours, 2+2, P5, etc) will be able to tell you quickly if the program you’re considering using is reputable, legal and safe.

5) Don’t Click Links in IM: IM is an immensely popular way for poker players to carry on conversations, and is often a welcome break from the tedium of a long session. That dynamic results in most online poker players having a buddy list a mile long, generally populated by people they don’t know the slightest thing about. It’s sadly easily to consider someone you’ve chatted with over the course of a few months to be a friend, but the fact is, they could be anyone. Just having a blanket policy of not clicking on links in IM conversations is an easy way to avoid one of the most common ways that hackers install keylogger software on your computer.

6) Take Advantage of What the Room Offers (and Demand More): Poker rooms are pretty responsive to customer demands, and are starting to roll out extended security features as a result of player requests. Take advantage of these features! For example, PokerStars offers a PIN feature that effectively serves as an un-keyloggable second password. If you’re not a fan of Stars, demand that whatever room you do favor adopts similar policies and preventative steps for securing your account access.

If you have significant amounts of money online, there are additional steps (system encryption, a dedicated machine for poker, etc) that you should likely consider, but for the average player the above should suffice. If it all seems like too much effort, ask yourself – would you rather spend a few minutes a month beefing up your security, or spend that time typing out the latest sob story about a hacked online poker account on your favorite poker forum? Seems like an easy choice to me.

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