Shakedown of gambling sites before Super Bowl

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LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Organized crime gangs are shaking down Internet betting sites on the eve of American football's Super Bowl, threatening to unleash a crippling data attack unless they pay a "protection" fee, police and site operators said.

Britain's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) said it is investigating a series of attacks and threats of attacks on companies in the United Kingdom.

But security experts say sites based in the Caribbean and continental Europe have also been targeted.

"These are not groups of amateur hackers -- great deals of money are changing hands," said an NHCTU spokesman. "These are for-profit crimes and all intelligence suggests that organized crime is involved."

The so-called denial-of-service attacks, which can disable a corporate data network with a barrage of bogus data requests, are a standard tool for hackers aiming to knock out a site.

Assheton said that this week he received the latest threat via e-mail. It was a demand for $30,000 to be wired via Western Union to the extortionist's account or risk being hit. "They essentially said 'pay up or you will go down for the Super Bowl,"' he said.

Police sources said this type of cyber "protection racket" has grown in recent months. The risk of being knocked offline by a digital attack on Super Bowl weekend, one of the busiest betting periods of the year, could doom a gambling site.

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I don't think online gambling is bad. I use Bet365 ( all the time, and don't have any problems betting online. It saves having to go to the bookies, and I can get my winnings immediately after a bet has finished. You can also bet on live football (soccer) games, and I bet on Premier League and Spanish Primera Liga games all the time.

It's perfectly safe.

I would presume many of you do your banking online (I certainly do), so what?s the big deal?

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