How A Glitch In A Video Poker Machine Led To A Criminal Hacking Case

video poker crop

Federal prosecutors have built a hacking case against a Las Vegas man who raked in half a million dollars exploiting a minor glitch in a video poker machine, Wired reports. 

At the centre of the hacking case is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), a 1984 law used to prosecute Aaron Swartz that critics say is way too broad.

The CFAA — which was originally passed to protect national security — punishes people who “exceed authorised access” to computers.

A lawyer for John Kane, the Vegas local who’s being prosecuted under the law, says that he didn’t violate the CFAA even though he did exploit a bug in a machine known as Game King.

That lawyer, Andrew Leavitt, told Wired that Kane and a friend of his were playing by the rules imposed by the machine, and that’s all that matters.

“All these guys did is simply push a sequence of buttons that they were legally entitled to push,” Leavitt said.

Here’s how that sequence worked, according to a motion Leavitt filed to dismiss the case:

If an individual is playing a $1.00 video poker machine and wins a jackpot or any other winning hand, so long as the double up feature is available for selection, currency can then be inserted into the machine. Once the currency or the voucher is inserted, the “double up” feature will be disabled. At this point, one simply needs to change the value on the machine from $1,000 to 10 dollars and a $1.00 jackpot will then become a $10.00 jackpot. The individual can then hit cash out and for instance, instead of winning $820.00, the player will earn $8,200.00.

If an individual is playing a dollar machine and earns a jackpot, all the individual has to do is play with the double up feature on, insert another dollar bill into the machine and then re-hit the amount to make it a $10.00 bet and then hit cash out and it will make it 10 times the original jackpot.

Head over to Wired to read its full analysis of the case, which rests on whether making money off this glitch “exceeds authorised access” to the video poker machine based on the CFAA. 

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