William Hill fights back against the hackers

But "the bad guys have only got to be lucky once", says IT chief...
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor

But "the bad guys have only got to be lucky once", says IT chief...

The entire online betting industry faces an ongoing battle in the fight against hackers and extortionists, according to William Hill's IT chief.

In the latest of the silicon.com CIO Vision video interview series, Victor Kemeny, IT director at the UK's largest bookmaker William Hill, said: "We have to be lucky 100 per cent of the time, whereas the bad guys have only got to be lucky once."

A number of UK bookmakers were targeted by criminal gangs two years ago, who threatened them with denial of service (DoS) attacks that would crash their websites unless they paid a ransom.

The UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit eventually smashed a Russian gang involved in the online extortion racket and money laundering but the threat hasn't entirely disappeared.

Kemeny told silicon.com: "We had a DoS attack six or nine months ago and we actually just rode it out. So for over 48 hours, we let the DoS attack run."

The security threat is one of the negative aspects of doing business on the internet but there are also plenty of opportunities.

He said: "The internet has changed the dynamics of the game. When it came along, there wasn't much belief that people would want to bet on the internet and we thought if we could make £50,000 a year we'd actually have a massive product there. Now we're launching arcade games and that can make potentially between £20,000 and 50,000 pounds a week."

Key to this will be offering more products - betting markets - for punters to bet on, according to Kemeny. This will take the form of more 'in-game' gambling where customers can bet on things like how many kicks of the ball before the next goal or, when a penalty is awarded, whether it will be saved or not.

He said: "For that sort of market you've got 30 seconds to create and take the bets."

Part of William Hill's plan for gaining competitive advantage in this increasingly rapidly-changing and fast-moving industry is to overhaul its ageing IT systems, and the company has just embarked on a three year project to replace legacy IT dating back to 1982.

Kemeny said: "What we're intending to do is deliver a more agile platform that will enable us to get to market quicker and actually provide us with a scalability - both horizontally and vertically - that actually means that as the business grows, depending on what channel it grows in, we can actually scale the infrastructure appropriately."

You can watch the full interview with Victor Kemeny here .

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