🎰 Meet Alex, the Russian Casino Hacker Who Makes Millions Targeting Slot Machines | WIRED

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Russians Engineer a Brilliant Slot Machine Cheat—And Casinos Have No Fix. Getty Images. In early June , accountants.


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He reverse engineered the PRNGs for numerous Mark VI games and the popular machine—more than , are still on casino floors.


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In the Missouri case, for example, one of the defendants, a Kazakh national who had been living in Florida, decided to cooperate with the FBI in exchange for leniency. Aristocrat reiterates that it has no evidence of any actual or potential cheat of any title other than the handful of Mark VI vintage titles previously reported. Topics casinos hacking russia longreads.{/INSERTKEYS}{/PARAGRAPH} Aristocrat has held fast to its refusal to negotiate with Alex, a decision that not all of its corporate peers have made when dealing with similar crises. But based on its reaction to my various inquiries, the company seems far from nonchalant about the Alex situation. I feel the numbers; I know how they move. Alex waited three weeks for Aristocrat to have a change of heart, then sent Elkerton a lengthy email in which he detailed the specific services he could provide in exchange for a sum that ran into eight figures. To underscore the fact that he needed to be taken seriously, he ended the email with proof of his technical prowess: a mathematical breakdown of the supposedly secret PRNG that powers Aristocrat games like 50 Lions and Heart of Gold. After wrapping up the casino gig, Alex spent six months teaching himself everything he could about PRNGs—in part because he admired their beauty but also because he knew that such expertise could prove profitable. Ackley discovered that the algorithm had a peculiar backstory. To bolster the veracity of what he shared, Alex supplied corroborating evidence in the form of emails, mathematical proofs, and audio recordings. In fact, she says that it does at least seem plausible. Brendan I. So his question is whether you are willing to negotiate on that issue. They use phones to record video of a vulnerable machine in action, then transmit the footage to an office in St. And the world just might become a slightly better place. After Russia largely outlawed its casino industry in , resulting in a massive sell-off of gaming equipment, Alex was able to get his hands on an Aristocrat Mark VI slot machine cabinet. Were he to do so, Aristocrat would have good reason to dismiss him as a charlatan whose threats are idle. Before ending the call, Elkerton poses a question to Alex: Why, after many years of earning millions with his milking system, is he now eager to cut a deal with Aristocrat? Alex could never agree to such a meeting, of course; by setting foot on US soil he would be risking arrest. This coincidence raises at least two possibilities. Well, for most people at least. But why should it be against the law? When he inevitably tires of the slot-machine racket altogether, Alex is prepared to exit the industry in a blaze of mischief. He also says he was once employed at a St. Can you speak for a few minutes with him? In fact, plenty of companies confronted by hackers with damaging information have opted to play ball and transmit the requested bitcoins to their tormentor. Featured Video. Related Stories. Petersburg organization for years. {PARAGRAPH}{INSERTKEYS}Though his St. After much back and forth, Alex agreed to an on-the-record interview on the conditions that his surname not be used and that he could disregard questions about his personal life that struck him as too invasive. Determined to find a way to score one last payday before shutting down his enterprise, Alex reached out to Aristocrat Leisure, an Australian slot machine manufacturer whose vulnerable products have been his chief targets. So they leave a number of doors open for me to enter. If the latter is the case, then Aristocrat—like all slot machine manufacturers—has a ready defense against any suggestion that its PRNGs are too feeble. Petersburg military university that specializes in teaching cryptography and hardware hacking. But Alex has weathered a few notable legal setbacks, which have resulted in some of his secrets spilling forth. The second is that Aristocrat has been basing some of its PRNGs, at least in part, on an algorithm that is at least 36 years old and which has long been in the public domain. Having failed to persuade Aristocrat to strike a deal, Alex is now toying with the idea of approaching IGT, another slot machine manufacturer; Alex claims to have recently deciphered the PRNGs for games that run on machines made by Atronic, an Austrian company that is now an IGT subsidiary. As in his earlier email, he offered mathematical evidence of his bona fides—in this instance a breakdown of how the PRNG works for a game called 50 Dragons that runs on Helix machines. Alex also insinuated that Aristocrat might face grave consequences if it chose to ignore him. He pined for the days when he could devote himself solely to tinkering with code, his primary passion. Only they are capable of making better predictions in their betting. Two hackers have developed a tool that can hijack a Jeep over the internet. I was able to locate that PRNG in the edition of the book that was published in , though it may also appear in the original edition from a dozen years earlier. Alex also claims to be engaged in selling his milking system to interested parties. It would be inappropriate to comment further. The time had come for an exit strategy. His three codefendants, all of whom were Russian citizens, pled guilty and received short prison sentences. Elkerton does not dismiss the possibility outright. On the recording, Elkerton sounds initially flustered by the situation and appears to try to nip the conversation in the bud by saying that she has a meeting to attend. He was instantly fascinated by the elegance of this sort of algorithm , which is designed to spew forth an endless series of results that appear impossible to forecast. Why is he no longer content to continue making a small fortune by sending his agents around the globe? One of his customers, he says, was a New York-based crew of alleged Russian and Georgian mafiosi, 33 of whom were indicted in June for racketeering, fraud, and other crimes. When he did, he noticed that the resulting numbers were familiar: One was an approximation of pi , one was an abbreviation of the mathematical constant e , and one was a slightly ribald jest By tracing those jokey references back, Ackley found that those exact numbers had also been used in a PRNG featured in SpaceOut , a program for the X Window System that simulated travel through a star field. His name had already come up twice in the course of my reporting—once from someone close to the fraud investigation in the Eastern District of Missouri and once in conversation with Willy Allison, a casino security consultant who has been tracking the St. Besides his Robin Hood justification, Alex defends his enterprise as cunning but by no means criminal. Elkerton sounds skeptical. Three years later, Novomatic became the first slots manufacturer to warn its customers that some of its PRNGs had been compromised. Just a little counterweight to the global gambling system, where the house always wins. Their job is to help casinos take money from the people; my job is to help myself and the people take money from the casinos.