Online bookies taken down by internet blackmail gangs

New wave of denial of service attacks hits Blue Square among others…

New wave of denial of service attacks hits Blue Square among others…

A new wave of denial of service attacks has been launched against UK online betting sites that have refused to pay up to criminal gangs demanding thousands of pounds in extortion money.

Blue Square's site is currently unavailable and a spokesman said it has been under attack since 13:00(BST) today. He told that Blue Square came under attack after the company ignored a demand for $30,000.

"This is the third successful attack," he said. "As soon as we put one solution in place they come up with another method, although there are a few other attacks we've managed to repel."

Capital Sports' website is also under attack and a customer service operator at the company said previous incidents had lasted as long as 24 hours. Both companies are still able to take telephone bets. understands that the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit is investigating two gangs, believed to be of Eastern European origin, using thousands of zombie computers they control to launch the denial of service attacks.

The new attacks raise fears the gangs are targeting UK betting sites in the run-up to the major Euro 2004 football and Wimbledon tennis events. But the Blue Square spokesman suggested the tactics are not that sophisticated.

"It looks like it is done alphabetically," he said. "Last time it was Total Bet and William Hill, and this time it is us and Capital Sports. If I was Coral I'd be worried."

Felicity Bull, spokeswoman for the NHTCU, would not comment on specific progress of the investigation but said it is one of the unit's priorities and it is supportive of the betting industry's decision not to pay up to the gangs.

She said: "We are dependent on law enforcement jurisdiction and timing and we can't just go blazing into other countries and picking people up off the streets."