The Hendon Mob database has announced its intention to sue the Polish Finance Ministry for allegedly hacking into its website.
Global Poker Index CEO Alex Dreyfus, who acquired the database from the Hendon Mob in June 2013 for $3 million, has accused the ministry of using hacker bots to crawl the website in order to steal data.
“Since December 29, we have seen a bot coming from the servers of mf.gov.pl that is crawling the whole website,” Dreyfus explained to PokerNews.
“We have tried to fight it, and we blocked it…They have changed the bot’s Internet provider four times already. Our security team has noticed it from day one and, as we have a special tool that allows us to avoid automated bots to steal our data, we fed them with fake data and fake results for over eight days.”
Quite why the Polish Finance Ministry would do this is unclear.Â The government takes a hard line against gambling, particularly the online variety, and recently warned Polish gamblers who play in the unlicensed market that they could face prosecution.
A recent post on the Ministry of Finance’s website stated that the Polish regulator had acquired information about 24,000 players who have participated in “illegal” gambling, including 17,700 who have won a total of PLN 27 million ($8 million).
The ministry said it had already initiated 1,100 criminal investigations against players and aims to prosecute the biggest winners in the country.
Poland’s gambling laws have been criticized by the European Union (EU), as they impede the free movement of trade across borders between its member states. Under political pressure, Poland modified its gambling act in 2011, permitting online sports betting, but with a restrictive litany of regulations that resulted in only four operators, all Polish, receiving licenses.
The Hendon Mob, of course, lists only live tournament winners, so, if the allegations are true, the Finance Ministry would appear to be barking up the wrong tree. Perhaps it is cross-referencing data about Polish live players as part of its ongoing investigations into locating the biggest online winners, although again, it seems unlikely that the Hendon Mob holds much clandestine data on these players.
However, while the EU already frowns on Poland’s gambling policy, it takes an even dimmer view of the theft of data.
The EU Database Directive states that the “repeated and systematic extraction and/or reutilization of insubstantial parts of the contents of the database implying acts which conflict with a normal exploitation of that database or which unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the maker of the database shall not be permitted.”
But whatever the Polish Finance Ministry is up to, Dreyfus is determined not to let them get away with it. This led to an amusing Twitter altercation between Dreyfus and Deputy Polish Finance Minister Jacek Kapica this week.
“Dear Finance Minister of Poland,” wrote Dreyfus, “please stop crawling/stealing data from The Hendon Mob. It’s illegal.”
“I do not know about that, I’m on vacation,”Â replied the deputy minister, sheepishly.
It may be time to reach for the popcorn.