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FBI Bungling Case against Casino Hackers, Assert Insiders

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Over the course of the past two years, various US companies, including MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment, have fallen victim to a band of malicious cyber criminals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) embarked on a quest to quell these highly violent culprits, and, despite allegedly identifying some of the suspects, still has not made any arrests.

Along Came a Spider

Since 2021, an infamous hacker group, known to experts as the Scattered Spider, has been causing havoc in the cybersecurity realm. However, it was their recent breaches in various prominent American companies that brought them into the limelight.

One particularly notable incident was the MGM breach, which had a significant impact on the operations of their casinos and hotels. According to a regulatory filing made last month, the breach resulted in an estimated $100 million in damages for the company, and it took several days to recover from the aftermath.

Caesars has reportedly given approximately $15 million as ransom to retrieve its system that was held hostage by hackers. Reuters reported that the FBI has recently identified over 12 individuals associated with this hacking group, the majority of whom reside in the US. However, the agency hasn't taken action, according to sources in the cybersecurity field.

In response to numerous instances of hacker breaches targeting private companies, major internet security firms, including CrowdStrike, Alphabet's Mandiant, Palo Alto Networks and Microsoft, have taken action. These companies, employing a team of five skilled researchers, have actively collected crucial evidence to assist law enforcement in identifying and apprehending the hackers responsible for these breaches.

In September, the casino incident sparked a surge of urgency in the FBI's ongoing inquiry. The agents, having initiated their investigation into the group's actions well over a year ago, have been delving into its activities. Different sectors, ranging from telecommunications and exports to healthcare and financial institutions, have been uncovered as victims by diligent security researchers studying the breach.

The Attacks Aren’t Slowing Down

Around 230 different entities have fallen victim to cyber threats since the start of 2022, according to the findings of ZeroFox, a cybersecurity enterprise situated in Baltimore, Maryland. This firm was instrumental in assisting Caesars in managing the consequences.

ZeroFox's CEO, James Foster, attributed the slow response by the authorities to inadequate staffing. Recent media articles often highlight how the organization is grappling with the exodus of its cyber workforce to lucrative positions in private enterprises that offer substantial remuneration packages.

Interactive chat channels and social messaging apps such as Telegram and Discord, which are highly favored by gamers, serve as platforms for frequent discussions about hacking activities. According to three individuals with knowledge of the situation, the decentralized structure of this group has traditionally posed challenges for the FBI in coordinating its efforts across different offices nationwide.

Over the course of several months, various field agencies diligently carried out separate investigations into cyber intrusions orchestrated by a particular faction. However, the connections between these incidents went unnoticed, causing a significant delay in the overall process.

Things could be changing, though. Not long ago, a recent inquiry led by the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, has yielded promising advancements, as disclosed by three individuals who opted not to disclose specific information. Additionally, they mentioned that a fresh special agent has been designated to handle this case.

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