On the morning of February 10, 2014, the Las Vegas Sands casino, something was not right. Computers were flat-lining, telephone lines stopped working, emails were down, and several IT systems came to a halt and it wasn’t even time for the gamblers to be up yet.
The $14 billion casino operation came to a standstill and nobody knew what was going on. 25,000 employees of the Sands were completely disconnected and called up the 5-person IT department for help, but they were busy running around the casino, pulling cords out of computers to save whatever they could from what they knew was an attack.
As the insanity subsided, the extent of the damage was revealed. Hard drives were wiped clean. Data imperative to the casino’s operation was deleted out of existence. The staff could no longer communicate with each other. The casino’s loyal members rewards plan had no history to fall back on. It was devastating for the Sands Empire.
According to Businessweek, the hackers had been roaming the company’s networks for approximately four months before launching the attack. It seems that the attackers targeted Sand’s weakest link, a casino in Bethlehem and spent months collecting login credentials before they actually entered the company’s major computer system in Las Vegas.
This all happened 10 months ago and they have yet to recover. The public has been kept out of the loop on this issue and would have remained so had it not been announced last week. The Sands attack came months before the Sony attack and this raised some eyebrows regarding the extent of security on American soil against cyber-attacks.
So what was the purpose of such a hit on Sands? Well, the vaults were not emptied, that’s for sure, and neither were the personal data and credit card information of their clients taken. This was not an attack for the money. High-ranking executives at the Sands insist that this attack was a punishment, a sort of payback, for certain political stances taken by Sheldon Adelson, Chief Executive Officer and majority owner of the Sands empire.
Adelson has never been shy to voice his opinion on the Middle East. In several public occasions, Adelson, a Jew, has declared support for Israel and even suggested the United States government nuke Iran.
His last public take on Iran before the actual attacks on his casinos was at a panel he attended at Yeshiva University in October 2013. There, he described what he thought was the right way to hold talks with Iran. He said that instead of talking, he would detonate an American warhead on Iranian soil, in the desert, without hurting a soul, just as a demonstration of American strength.
His speech was immediately released online and many viewers watched it on YouTube and other sites. Two weeks later, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded with strong words saying that ”America should slap these praying people in the mouth and crush their mouths.”
Sands Executives insist that such an attack from Iranian persons would need the backing of the Iranian government.
This attack and that of Sony is all very new to the United States. There have always been cases of countries spying on American companies and even stealing from them. But there has never been a case of a foreign country setting out to destroy an American company’s infrastructure on such a large scale. Since it has gone public, people are wondering if such a cyber war would actually lead to triggering an American governmental response on another country.
As sensational as this story may be, it raises questions about whether or not other companies have also been attacked but are covering up the incident.
If such attacks carry on, it spells one thing: cyberwars are aimed at the US and the intentions are not to for financial gains.