When Organized Crime Trojans Poker Players’ PCs (and Omidyar, politics, NSA/your bank account, HIV cure?)

Poker player at the European Poker Tournament goes up to his hotel room and his key doesn’t work. Goes to the desk, gets key reset, heads up again. Opens room and finds his laptop’s gone. Then it mysteriously reappears … in the hotel lobby?

A little while later they go to dinner and the scenario repeats — key not working, laptop gone. Hotel promises an investigation.

Surprise, the cameras in that area “weren’t working.” Hotel seems cooperative, but isn’t… during the night the Finnish poker player gets a 5:30am call, “your taxi to the airport is ready,” and four hours later, “do you want to make business? About the women…” (he’d been dealing with a female hotel employee?)

Finally Finnish poker dude gets to talk to hotel security, who is remarkably unhelpful and prone to difficult-to-believe, very weird explanations… like the the lack of camera coverage in the lobby is explained by the fact that the laptop was “actually given to a hotel employee on the 2nd floor, where the cameras were not working.”

However, hotel security does give him the door entry log for his room, which gives a clue as to how the cooks cracked the lock.

Finally the hotel says they’ve cracked the case, but insists Finnish poker dude come ot the meeting alone. Why? Because they pin the blame on Finnish poker player’s friend, who was staying with him in the room! (This person was basically a traveling buddy, who had constant physical access to the laptop, and who had an alibi for the time of the theft.)

Conclusion? “We just could not understand when something so clearly had happened and we had very exact times on everything in a hotel full of cameras that this could just be sweeped under carpet by bureaucracy.”

Unsurprisingly, after the poker player handed his laptop to his countrymen at F-Secure, the security boffins discover a fairly crude Java trojan that’s designed to let anyone playing against him see his cards. (The same was present on the laptop of the friend who’d stayed in the same room, and a third player at the tournament, encountered in the elevator, also reported a “laptop theft.”)

The story continued when the player decided he wanted the matter reported to the police. Rather than doing it himself, he passed on responsibility to PokerStars (who ran the tournament), who passed on responsibility to the hotel, who said they’d called the polce… nobody reading this far should be surprised that the hotel didn’t do diddly.

PokerStars ended up reporting the matter to the Isle of Man police — not the Spanish police, despite the tournament having been in Spain — because PokerStars is located in the Isle of Man.

As for the poker player, when he’d asked PokerStars “if I should stay a bit longer [in Spain] to sort it out with the police, [PokerStars] very quickly responded there was absolutely no need, that I should take my morning flight back home, they got it covered.”

Yeeeeah. Trust the bureaucracy, the bureaucracy is your friend.

Lessons: A hotel packed solid with champion online poker players is a “target rich environment” for crime, and nobody but nobody wants to admit that crime happens. Plus, if you use your laptop to make money on the basis of having more information than the other guy, assume that other guy’s going to try and compromise it.

Personally, I think cops generally get a bad rap. Sure, if you’re a political protester they’re not your friend, and in any case with serious political / power-structure implications they’re totally useless. But they do serve a pretty important role in defending people’s rights against other people… as the extreme reluctance to call the police on the parts of the organizations here demonstrates.

(That said, PokerStars may have been aware this was an organized crime thing, and not wanting to attract arsons or decapitated horse heads by pushing it.)

Omidyar stuff: It will be called “First Look,” and all its operations will be based inside the US. Lame — without internationalization, there’s a de-facto gag on them from day zero. I suppose we all knew this was what would happen, but I had hope, dammit. http://pressthink.org/2013/12/a-first-look-at-newcos-structure/

The only real crime is making a difference: http://utdocuments.blogspot.com.br/2013/12/some-truth-in-new-york-times.html

Speaking of politics, for any remaining hold-outs with faith that it’s about “crime” or “the terrorists”: http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-real-purpose-of-oaklands-surveillance-center/Content?oid=3789230&showFullText=true

Oh yeah and here’s to hoping the TPP dies in a mysterious shredder accident. https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/12/tpps-attack-artists-termination-rights

Is the NSA changing the amount of money held in bank accounts or manipulating the financial system? https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131218/14533925607/intelligence-task-force-hints-nsa-manipulating-financial-systems-changing-amounts-bank-accounts.shtml

Treatment is more profitable than a cure: German researchers find possible HIV cure but “pharmaceutical companies have shown little interest in it.” http://rt.com/news/hiv-cure-aids-treatment-495/

http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/29/news-views-gossip/sad-conclusion-my-barcelona-incident-1397551/

http://www.f-secure.com/weblog/archives/00002647.html
http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/29/news-views-gossip/my-unbelievable-ept-barcelona-story-hotel-rooms-arts-barcelona-broken-into-plant-trojans-1369171/

“It all started with me busting out of the main event day 2 fairly early, around 15:30. I walk straight to my room to go online and surf the internet for a while. When I get to the room my key is not working. I go down to the reception and they sync my key. I get back to the room to find out my laptop is not on the table where I left it. I have a very big and heavy fuijitsu celsius laptop, so it’s usually very easy to see. They have cleaned the room so I assume the cleaning lady has moved it somewhere. I do look everywhere multiple times but just can’t find it.

I’m staying with my friend Henri in the same room, and I can only think of two options, he has borrowed the laptop (I don’t know why he would) or it has been stolen. However how could it get stolen so it must be him borrowing it. My phone hasn’t been working for a few days but he told me he was going to play the cash games at the casino (very close to the hotel, basically one big complex) so I walk over there to ask him about the laptop. He says he doesn’t know anything about it, but tells me his key wasn’t working either which sounded like a pretty weird coincidence(he also played day 2 of the main event but busted 2 hours before me) so I walk back to my room to have a better look just incase.[…]

I go to have dinner with a friend of mine, probably like 1 and a half hours later I come back to the reception. Laia informs me that the cameras in my corridor were not working and have not been for a week. I’m stunned but somehow I had a feeling something like this was this was the case, it couldn’t be that easy. They tell me they will investigate the matter, and we agree to have a meeting with laia and some security manager tomorrow at 12, I get a feeling they are not taking me seriously. I go back to my room still shocked, only to find out my key is not working again. Then back to the reception where laia still is, I tell her the key didn’t work and ask for it to be synced. She does that and tells me she will come up with me to check the key. We get into the room, and the laptop has gone missing AGAIN.

I’m in complete shock, do not have words to describe the feeling. We look through the entire room but nothing to be found. Laia calls the security about this, and has me and my friend transferred two floors up to a suite. We again agree to meet at 12 tomorrow morning. I walk back to the casino cash game area to talk to my friend about what has happened, and that I need to borrow his laptop to close down all my online poker accounts. He tells me we should just completely change the hotel just to be sure, this all is too scary.

We go to the reception and ask for laia to tell her this. She tells us she has informed the security guys to look extra carefully at our corridor, even during the nighttime. We agree that’s good enough when suddenly laia gets a call. She talks spanish for a while and asks me what model my laptop is, fuijitsu? I tell her yes. She tells me someone found it at the hotel lobby and the security has it now. She asks us to wait and goes to get it. She does return with my laptop. […]

Now however we talk about this whole thing with my friend alot before going to bed and are very confident that this will get solved, the lobby is full of cameras so we will see how the laptop ended up where it did. The elevators are full of cameras and have a very small time interval so we should see a guy carrying a huge laptop. All in all we just have big expectations from tomorrows meeting at 12.

During this night something very weird happens that hasn’t ever happened to me before in any luxury hotel. Me and my friend wake up to a room phonecall at 5:30 saying “Your taxi is ready” I ask what taxi –
“the taxi to the airport” – i ask “with whos name?” – no name, just the room number, I tell the guy on the phone haven’t ordered any taxi and the call ends. It could be we are just imagining, we were extremely paranoid at this point, but my friend said he thought the guy on the phone did not sound like a hotel employee because of the way he talked, it was not in that usual polite way but actually fairly rude one.

We wake up again to the phone ringing at 9:30. I answer and there is a voice saying “do you want to make business” I answer “What” – again “do you want to make business” – “Huh about what?” – “About the women” I just answer “no” and hang up. Now we are both too upset to get anymore sleep. For us it already seems clear someone from the hotel staff is in on this, so they can easily find out to which room we have moved. Now these calls could obviously be a coincidence aswell but lay them behind your ear for a while as my story continues.[…]

Within the first few minutes it is very clear he is not here to help us. He is here to make this thing go away, anything we try to bring him he comes up with some weird explanations. At one point he basically says “Nothing has gone missing, you already got a room upgrade and free roomservice, what more do you want?” Firstly I go straight to the point, I tell him so the laptop was found in the lobby, which is ful of cameras, did you find the guy who was with it? He answers that the laptop was not actually found in the lobby, but someone had brought it to some hotel employee in the second floor, and in that place the cameras did not work. […]

Everything of this is so confusing and we are already so tilted we didn’t look at this too closely until later with my friend, and realized they had explained the codes wrong to us. So there was two options, a guy from the security personnel could not read his own hotels security code, or they were intentionally trying to trick us. However I will get back to this in more detail later in this story. We know this meeting is not leading anywhere and pokerstars probably will be able to pressure them better or somehow explain the seriosity of the situation so we decide the meeting is over.

I’m mentally crushed. I don’t believe what just happened in the last 30 minutes. Everything was so clear before we entered that meeting, we thought there was close to no chance this would not get resolved. I however have hopes that pokerstars will deal with this properly. I wait and after sometime after 17:00 I get a text from a pokerstars rep saying the meeting was finished. That the “hotel changed their view about the cameras” (still not sure what this means, certainly not our rooms corridor cameras, probably about the ones when the laptop was found the second time, but wtf how do you change your view, you mean lied at first), and that the hotel is reviewing the footage now and will update us later tonight. The casino is also going to review the footage as they have to ensure my friend was plaing the cash games, and that the head of arts security has agreed this is a major breach in security.[…]

We wake up at 11:00 to the alarm clock and no updates yet. I go to the pool to wait and ask the pokerstars rep a few times but no updates. At some point I hear the hotel and stars have a new meeting to see the report. I wait and wait and after 21 in the evening they finally have news for me and tell me I have to come alone no exceptions. I try to explain this concerns my friend just as much as myself, his laptop could also be in danger but she insists. We walk to the pokerstars staff room where I meet the pokerstars security manager. We sit down and he tells me “your friend might not be as good of a friend as you think he is”. I know this friend of mine very well, we travelled two months in south america last winter, he hangs around my house, he has had so many better spots do this to me that I don’t really take this seriously. I assume the stars security manager has some heavy proof, however he shows me some notes about the same door entrylogs we saw in that meeting earlier. […]

We just could not understand when something so clearly had happened and we had very exact times on everything in a hotel full of cameras that this could just be sweeped under carpet by bureaucracy. […]

In the hotel elevator a guy looks at me and says hey jeans. I don’t recognize him at first and say hey, whats up, who are you. He answers “I’m Ignat, 0human0, how are you?” Even this is so sick, as I almost always just make the standard (I’m fine, what about you?) answer but this time I was just too sick of everything so I answered “Not good, my laptop was stolen”. He looks at me with a surprised face and says his was also.”

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