Winning Poker Network (WPN) CEO Phil Nagy says security teams on his poker sites have made groundbreaking discoveries about how modern poker bots work, and recently shared key learnings from the frontlines in the war against these automated pests.
In a blog post published on Nov. 22, Nagy outlined how his team has developed new ways to stifle the cheats. At the heart of this new strategy are graphics updates.
Bots are Screen Scraping
As Nagy explained, certain types of online poker bots now use screen scraping to analyze real-time data.
“Our security teams discovered that both commercial and private bots process the information at a poker table (what cards they have, what position the bot is in etc.) by reading the graphical pixels,” Nagy wrote.
Since making the discovery, the security team at WPN has developed new ways to stop cheats in the short term. By remapping the tables, the bots are no longer able to interpret the pixels and make decisions based on in-game dynamics.
Although Nagy admits the solution only renders the software useless until the “new layout is solved,” it’s another weapon in the fight against fraudsters.
Over the last six months, WPN sites, including Americas Cardroom, where concerns have been raised, have introduced four graphical updates. The updates have forced programmers to reconfigure their illicit software.
To support this claim, Nagy uploaded a screen shot from a forum dedicated to poker bots.
“Yes, seems like WPN decided to change fonts every 1-2 weeks, which is a problem. Another problem is that their bet fonts became so blurred that scraping is not reliable anymore,” reads a July 14 forum post captured by Nagy.
In tandem with blinding the bots, WPN’s Customer Analysis Team reviewed account activity before and after the recent updates. Accounts that displayed significantly lower volume following the changes were requested to complete a bot protocol.
Those that were unwilling or unable to prove they weren’t running bot software via videos and session data were closed.
The crackdown resulted in 46 poker bots being stopped, and more than $450,000 being redistributed to affected players.
WPN Insights can Help Industry at Large
The latest efforts by WPN offer another interesting, yet potentially ominous insight into fraudulent software.
If poker bots can make moves by analyzing graphical data, the question becomes, what other ways are bot makers using to see player data?
Partypoker has been using new detection techniques since the end of 2018, and has recovered more than $1 million. WPN is also fighting back against the fraudsters.
The latest updates should help curtail cheating across the industry as a whole. By releasing its findings, WPN will help other online poker sites develop ways of stopping illegal practices.
While the top operators may stop short of putting up a united front against bots (something proposed by Rob Yong), public information is helpful.
As more security teams lift the lid on bots, the industry’s ability to stop cheats improves, which can only be a positive for both the sites and their players.