November 7th, 2016
Last week punters hoping to wager on the Champions League at William Hill found themselves flummoxed and unable to access the bookmaker’s site for days following a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on Tuesday, November 1.
The assault on William Hill is just the most recent in a string of attacks that have targeted some of the biggest websites on earth, with sports books garnering particular attention. Thankfully, the company has since resolved the issues they were facing and mostly returned to normal service.
A DDoS attack is a crude yet brutally effective cyber-attack wherein the perpetrator of the attack utilizes a number of internet-connected devices to send mass quantities of fake traffic to a website in an attempt to overload that site’s ability to accept legitimate visitors.
To illustrate this, William Hill at one point compared it to sending thousands of customers to one of the company’s real-world betting shops to block legitimate customers from even entering:
To update you and help to understand what's happened with our site over the last 36 hours. pic.twitter.com/W9JSOmMrbe— William Hill Betting (@WillHillBet) November 2, 2016
The attack on William Hill is just another in a series of high-profile DDoS attacks, including one in October that targeted DNS company Dyn, which resulted in massively popular sites such as Twitter, Reddit, and Netflix becoming inaccessible for hours on end.
The attack on Dyn was achieved with the help of a new type of malware known as Mirai, which creates a network of multiple computer systems, known as a botnet, to undertake the DDoS attack. It seems that this same technology was used to target William Hill last week.
It is worth noting that some reliable estimates put the percentage of DDoS attacks that are aimed at sports betting sites is just over 50%, with attacks often scheduled for high-volume wagering days such as the Super Bowl. In the case of William Hill, the attack came during Champions League play, with Manchester City against Barcelona being the headliner.
The bookmaker remained down for over 24 hours, encompassing further popular matches such as Champions League tilts involving Arsenal, Tottenham, and Leicester City. William Hill’s IT department worked diligently for days on end to restore full functionality, a task that stretched into the weekend. While the most significant loss of service was contained to a period of about 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday, that single day may have cost the odds maker over £4 million.
Thankfully, the financial losses are limited to the site. A DDoS attack is, as explained above, a rather primitive and simplistic form of cyber assault, and one that does not carry a threat to user information. The purpose of such an attack is to simply turn legitimate visitors away from a website, not to steal data.
Additionally, William Hill’s top-notch security software was still functional, keeping user information safe and secure even if a more refined attack had been mounted. This technology is considered the most elite on the market, as expected with a quality bookie like William Hill, considered the top retail bookmaker in the UK.
So ultimately users can rest assured that thee accounts and data are still secure, with the only loss to them coming in the form of lost wagering opportunities. Looking for a silver lining and given the success rates-or lack thereof, more precisely-of some punters, this inaccessibility may have actually been a blessing in disguise for some.
Following several days of around-the-clock technical work, William Hill was back at nearly full capacity by this weekend, with a spokesperson telling Gambling.com that services and betting volumes had returned to normal levels by Saturday, November 5. While he did warn that certain services may experience minor hiccups in the short term, such issues appear to be few and far between.
While William Hill themselves lost millions due to this attack, it is encouraging to note how quickly the company was able to get services back online, as well as the fact that user information remained secure throughout. As of this writing, the William Hill sportsbook was back to peak functionality following a problem-free weekend of wagering.
For those interested in checking out how the topnotch bookmaker is doing following the attack or have been waiting for word it's safe to return to betting with the online bookie, now is the time to head over to William Hill! If you experience any trouble at all while enjoying some punts with William Hill, their support team can be reached 24/7.