Monday, December 05, 2011

UB Data Leak

UB Data LeakAt some point within the last couple of weeks, a large amount of information concerning player accounts on UltimateBet was made available on the web. The information was contained in a number of Excel and text files -- like 150 or so -- and could be downloaded by anyone in possession of the URL.

The files are all dated around the middle of last month. Late last week someone posted a link to the page on the Two Plus Two forums, then deleted the post just a few minutes later. However, a small number of people -- including the moderators at 2+2 -- were able to obtain the URL and get a look at what the files contain.

One of those mods, Noah Stephens-Davidowitz, reported the leak on Subject:Poker early Friday evening. Haley Hintze got a look at the files and posted about them on her blog on Saturday afternoon. And Todd “Dandruff” Witteles (formerly of NeverWinPoker / DonkDown) also saw the files and shared an analysis on his new site.

The page linking to the files was taken down late Saturday, was back up again briefly early this morning, and is now down again. If you’re curious about what information is contained in the files, take a look at those three linked-to articles mentioned above. While there is certainly information most of us wouldn’t want spread around too liberally -- e.g., date of birth, mailing address, email address, phone number -- there doesn’t appear to be any specifics such as bank info, social security numbers, or the like contained in the files.

There’s some mystery about who is responsible for the leak (a rogue customer service employee?) as well as the possible reasons for the data having been sorted and assembled in this way (to sell to spammers?).

As Haley points out in her post, while some alarm is being expressed about this leak (e.g., in a new Two Plus Two thread started in response to the S:P article), it is not as though information provided to online poker sites hasn’t already been shared or sold or otherwise “leaked” around many times over. As Haley explains, “Most players are just commodities to the online sites. That’s the real why and how of it. Your data is secure as long as the site rakes in money, but once the squeeze comes, all bets are off, and anything that can be grabbed and sold is usually fair game.”

As I’ve written about here before, I had accounts on both Absolute Poker and UltimateBet.

I opened my AP account in October 2006, just a few days after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed into law. It was right about that time that the company that owned AP bought out the company that owned UB. Talk then suggested the player bases would be consolidated, but instead AP and UB continued to operate independently. (It was not until July 2008 that the two sites would start touting themselves as the “Cereus network.”)

Then in August 2007, AP and UB offered to allow players to move funds back and forth between accounts on both sites. In early September 2007, I decided to do just that and moved some money from my AP account over into a new one on UB.

Within weeks the insider cheating scandal at Absolute Poker became public, and I immediately decided to withdraw all of my funds from both AP and UB. Getting my money out of AP was simple enough, but I had a hell of a time getting my measly roll off of UB. I finally did get my funds, but not after enduring a lot of frustration and absurdity first, details of which I shared in a post titled “UB Kidding Me.”

Shortly thereafter I began posting fairly frequently about the Absolute Poker scandal while also suggesting neither AP nor UB were sites to be trusted. Then in early March 2008 the UltimateBet scandal first hit the fan in a big way.

Thus I had an active AP account for a little over a year, and one on UB for just a couple of months. Just as with other online poker sites, I never gave either AP or UB any information I wasn’t comfortable sharing (e.g., I never gave credit card numbers, bank account numbers, my SSN, etc.).

Since Black Friday, the Full Tilt Poker fiasco has mostly eclipsed the equally-bad-for-poker mess that was/is AP/UB. Whereas the two Cereus networks had previously been the standard for dishonesty and fraud in online poker, FTP has swiftly evolved into the industry’s current benchmark for the-worst-it-can-get.

Thus while a few are anxious about it, the general outcry at the UB customer info leak has seemed mostly muted. I agree that it isn’t as though we should be all that surprised at the news that online poker sites have sold our information if there were a buck to made from it. But I do think this latest development should be remembered and included in the long list of ways UB managed to screw over its players. And the game.

Does kind of recall late 2007-early 2008 writing about this, though. Back when cheating and scandal in online poker was still relatively new. And for many, still something that seemed like it could be dismissed.

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