Online Poker Computer Security
THE WEEKLY SHUFFLE, 2009-03-29, by TwoGun, OzoneOne of the reasons some people are reluctant to keep large sums in an online poker account is due to computer security. Hackers and scammers can conceivably wipe someone's account clean if they are able to gain access to a password. There have been many high-profile instances where an account is hacked and the hacker dumps the players money to another poker account on high stakes tables. This happened to Greg Raymer in 2007. In that instance, railbirds were able to report the odd behavior to PokerStars security. Raymer's funds were recovered. Lesser-known players have not been so fortunate.
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim to online poker account hackers:
1. Beware of Phishing Emails
By now, most people have heard of phishing attempts to get bank account information or personal information for identity theft. Did you know that there are phishing attempts trying to get Neteller, Moneybookers, and even Party Poker account data? Generally, these phishing attempts operate under the guise that someone has sent you money. They then provide phony links to a phishing site. Whenever you visit any of these sites, always type in neteller.com, moneybookers.com, etc, into the browser. Don't just blindly click on links in emails that say someone mysterious has sent you money. Don't let greed blind your senses. If something sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.
2. Don't Use Hotmail
While there is no firm data on this, it seems the majority of the time a person's online poker account gets hacked is because they are using Hotmail as their poker account email. It is not hard to hack a Hotmail account. All you need to know is the person's country (simple), postal code, and answer to the secret question. The 'secret question' is often something like 'mom's name' or 'first pet,' which is something you may accidentally divulge without even knowing it.
Other free emails are generally better about this. For example, Gmail will just send a lost password to a secondary email. Only after 24 hours of inactivity for the account (which Gmail interprets as meaning that you really don't have access to the account or the secondary email), will they even let you attempt to gain access via security code.
One idea, in general, is to makeup an answer for these secret questions that isn't really an answer to the question. Whether it is first pet or mother's maiden name, just have the answer be something random and consistent like 'poetry580XZ,' which effectively serves as an unguessable backup password.
3. Don't Download Stupid Stuff
Have a hard and fast rule of thumb for your computer usage: don't download any programs that seem shady or that you don't fully understand. Trojans and key-loggers can be sent in the form of "free movies" or some other random crap. Sites with a lot of popups or sites that promise something great for free (movies, music, porn, whatever) almost always come with a catch. Don't be stupid.
4. Beware of Free Porn
The promise of free porn is probably the most common way through which people wind up with trojans and key-loggers that could pose a threat to their online poker security. There's really no reason to download porn nowadays anyway. Just check out YouPorn or RedTube or a host of other reputable sites that allow you to stream porn about as safely as any video on YouTube.
5. Make Your Password Complex
This article on password security offers some striking information about the integrity of people's password choices (or lack thereof). To summarize the article, a hacker who stole 20,000 passwords from a database found that 3% of people use the exact same password, '123456'. Additionally, 4% of people use some variation on the word 'password'. Even more startling is that a whopping 16% of people's passwords were a first name. There's no telling if it was their first name or just a generic first name, but it shouldn't need to be emphasized how terrible of a password 'Justin' is. Passwords should always have some numbers and complicated symbols that make no sense like 'dip34tu#9' or some other random jibberish.
6. Practice Basic Computer Security
Make sure your basic computer security fundamentals are strong. Update Windows regularly. Use a firewall. Purchase anti-virus software that scans your computer on a weekly basis and alerts you with a pop up if you're about to do something questionable. Usually this software costs about $30-$50 which is well worth it if you transact a lot of money online.
Don't keep more money in your online poker account than you need to. Letting a bunch of money sit around in an online poker account might have accidentally been a good investment over the past year, but in general, there are far better places to keep excess stores of cash than an online poker account. Keep what you need to play in the account and put the rest in a money market or checking account if you wish to keep liquid. You can always redeposit in the midst of a downswing if need be.
The Weekly Shuffle is our Sunday column with our observations and commentary on the poker world. Have an idea for an article? Leave a suggestion on the feedback page.
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