- Russian crime organizations spreading their wings and looking for new venues to explore
- It remains unclear which slot machine-type Russian gangsters were planning to hack
Most of us have a certain image of Russian gangsters that we’ve acquired through movies and TV shows. That image usually includes tattooed, heavily armed thugs you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.
But some Russian criminals are much more sophisticated than they are given credit for.
The recent indictment that’s been unsealed in New York’s Federal District Court on Wednesday proves a case in point.
The New York Times reported charges against 31 people who operated across the United States and had ties to the former Soviet Union (Russia, Georgia, and Ukraine), mention a number of traditional crimes, like racketeering, but also indicate the existence of a scheme involving a hacking device created to predict the behavior of electronic slot machines.
Discovering new crime opportunities
According to Mark Galeotti, a Russian crime specialist, criminal groups from Eastern Europe have been very proactive lately, looking for new criminal venues to explore. Trying to hack slot machines certainly belongs to this category, and this isn’t the first time a similar scheme has been uncovered. Galeotti, who was interviewed by the New York Times, went as far as to say that the only thing that surprises him is the fact criminal organizations are still involved with ‘traditional crime’.
He also explained that the image of an average Russian thug doesn’t correspond with the reality. According to Galeotti, many of those residing in the US are very computer savvy and are often involved in frauds, hacking, and semi-legal business activities.
Limited information on the slot scheme
For the time being, the exact details of the scheme to hack casino slot machines aren’t available. The indictment asserts the hacking device was used in a Philadelphia casino in January, netting more than $1,000 for the organization.
Other than that, there are several recorded phone conversations in which Razhden Shulaya, who is alleged to be the head of the criminal enterprise, mentions the mysterious device capable of predicting the slot behavior, according to the New York Times report.
Another conversation indicated the device was targeted at a particular slot model, so the group was surveying casinos offering these particular slots.
The New York Times was unable to get a comment from Mr Shulaya’s lawyer.
What was the slot machine in question is still up in the air. In a similar story from a few months back, a group of Russian criminals targeted older slots produced by Australia’s Aristocrat Leisure. That group went undetected for a while as they only needed a mobile phone to take advantage of the slots’ patterns since the information was fed to them from a remote location.
The conclusion to that story was that Russian operatives could continue what they were doing because it would be far too expensive for the casinos to remove all the potentially compromised machines. Since these slots aren’t defective in any way and they are in line with all the laws and regulations – they simply represent an accepted liability for the casinos.
As for the most recently discovered group, it remains unclear what the device actually was and what types of slot machines they were planning to target. As the court proceedings move forward, more information is expected to come to light.
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