Hack Alert at PokerStars?! Err… No.

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PokerStars accounts are more protected than ever before – despite what you may have heard to the contrary. Head of PR at the site Michael Josem spoke out this week, in order to address the players’ concerns that there had been a spike in the number and frequency of accounts being hacked. Josem pointed out that there had, in fact, been a fall in the number of instances of account hacking, but that better notifications meant players were more aware of the issue.

The Issue

Online poker players like to gossip. It’s a well-known fact that throughout the internet you’ll find forums full of players venting their woes about the state of the online poker industry.

In one particular thread on the Two Plus Two poker forum, titled “Many Pokerstars accounts hacked recently, Stars accepts no liability”, a user (presumably a PokerStars player in contact with many other players) began with the pretty bold gambit explaining how “many Pokerstars accounts are suddenly being hacked and the number is rapidly growing. Stars continues to deny any possibility of a leak from their end, even though nobody so far has reported anything other than their Pokerstars accounts hacked.

The next few dozen posts on the thread were mainly other players confirming that yes, there has been a rise in the number of accounts being hacked, and that PokerStars should really be doing something about it. Now, there’s an old saying that ‘all publicity is good publicity’, but when it comes to hundreds of people slating your site for security issues, you know you’ve got a problem. No one wants to play at a site if they think their account is going to be hacked!

The Ironic Bit

Since the start of the year, and apparently before, the number of accounts being hacked has actually decreased thanks to tighter security measures and checks. PokerStars has always used both password protection, PINs, SMS validation and RSA Security tokens, and has recently introduced the option for players to use security questions to better protect their account from attackers. With all the new security measures, there has actually been a steady decline in the number of hacked accounts – not a rise as people have been reporting.

The Explanation and PokerStars’ Response

When there’s a high profile stabbing reported in the news, it suddenly seems that the papers are filled with reports of knife crime. Well, that’s basically because a) when someone starts talking about something, everyone starts chiming in with their own experiences and similar stories and b) your awareness of a particular issue is heightened and you’re more likely to pick up on it. This is the backbone of what happened at PokerStars.

Remember those new security measures I was talking about earlier? One of them happens to be that the notifications for hacked accounts have improved. Basically, when someone accesses your account from a new machine or location, you’re notified by email. So, people notice it more now whereas before they might have carried on, unaware.

So it’s ironic that people are complaining about an increase in account hacks when there’s in fact a decrease AND it’s ironic that it’s the very security protocols which are designed to reduce the problem that are making people’s jump to the wrong conclusions.

Luckily, before the situation on the forums got too out of hand PokerStars’ Head of PR Michael Josem stepped in to provide some graphic data proving the reductions in cases of hacking. Not only did he include the below graph that shows nearly an 11% drop in reported hackings since January, he was also able to point out that “PokerStars was still able to ensure that no funds were lost in about 52% of the cases” – not bad going.

Account Hacking Reductions at PokerStars

The post is still up on the forum and is definitely worth a read if you’re interested in how poker sites are working to protect you.

Who is Michael Josem?

When this kind of statement is put out by poker sites, the person doing the talking usually isn’t that relevant, being merely a conduit for a prepared speech. This isn’t the case with this statement, though, as Josem had been carefully selected to make this statement. Although he’s now Head of PR at PokerStars, he originally joined the company to work on the security team. While his current position definitely makes him the right choice for public announcements, his history in security adds an extra helping of believability to what he has to say. Smart move PokerStars.


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