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Cybersecurity Breaches at MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment: Ocean’s 13 Style Digital Heist
By: Mack Jackson Jr
In the fast-paced digital age, the security of sensitive data is paramount for every industry, and the recent cybersecurity incidents at MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment underscore this imperative. Both high-profile cases have served as a stark reminder that even well-prepared organizations can fall prey to cyberattacks, causing significant financial loss and jeopardizing customer trust.
On September 22, 2023, MGM Resorts concluded a 10-day computer system shutdown in a preemptive effort to secure its data following a cyberattack. While specific details have not been publicly disclosed, the ramifications are profound. Preliminary estimates suggest that the shutdown may have cost MGM up to $8 million per day, totaling a staggering $80 million in cumulative losses.
Caesars Entertainment, another casino magnate, also came under a cyberattack on September 7. While its casino and online operations remained functional, the company needed help to assure the security of the personal information of tens of millions of its customers.
The Cost and the Vulnerability
The impacts of these attacks extend beyond monetary losses. For MGM Resorts, the cyberattack compromised several vital functions, including hotel reservations and credit card processing, although some resort services like dining and entertainment remained operational. Likewise, the disclosure from Caesars about the insecurity of customer data poses a potential PR crisis and long-term damage to brand trust.
In both instances, experts have noted the exposure of critical cybersecurity weaknesses, challenging the perception that casinos are invulnerable data fortresses.
The cyberattacks on MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have been tentatively attributed to a hacker group named Scattered Spider, associated with a Russia-based operation known as ALPHV or BlackCat. However, these allegations remain under investigation, reflecting cybercrime’s often murky and international scope.
The Solution: Cybersecurity Awareness Training
While technology will continue to evolve, so will the techniques of hackers and cybercriminals. This security presents a growing need for businesses to be trained to invest in cybersecurity measures proactively. A critical element of this is employee training.
The weakest link in an organization’s cybersecurity defense is often human error. Employees can inadvertently become the gateway for cyberattacks, be it an uninformed click on a phishing email or improper data handling procedures. Cybersecurity awareness training programs educate staff about best practices, common threats, and immediate steps to take if they suspect a breach.
Training should not be a one-off activity but rather an ongoing program, regularly updated to include the latest threats and mitigation strategies. This process creates a culture of vigilance and responsibility among employees, making them the first line of defense against cyber threats.
Both MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment are expected to disclose further details about the cyberattacks in their upcoming quarterly reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, the lesson here is clear: the cost of a cyberattack is high, not just in immediate financial terms but also in the erosion of customer trust and brand reputation.
While recent cyberattacks on giants like MGM Resorts and Caesars Entertainment have made headlines, it is imperative to recognize that small businesses are not immune to such threats. They may be even more vulnerable. The incidents involving large casinos and hospitality organizations highlight modern cybercrime’s sophisticated nature yet underscore the potential risks smaller enterprises that lack extensive security resources face.
Small businesses often operate under the misconception that their smaller scale makes them less attractive targets for cybercriminals. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, smaller organizations frequently become steppingstones for attackers, who exploit weaker security measures to gain access to more extensive, more lucrative networks. The absence of dedicated cybersecurity personnel and advanced security infrastructure makes small businesses highly susceptible to cyberattacks such as phishing, ransomware, and data breaches.
Additionally, small businesses often need more financial resources to recover from a cyberattack. According to a U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance report, 60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a cyberattack. This report is a chilling statistic that emphasizes the existential threat cybercrime poses to small enterprises.
The incidents involving MGM Resorts and Caesars should serve as a wake-up call for small businesses to prioritize cybersecurity measures. It’s not just about installing antivirus software or setting up firewalls; there’s an urgent need to invest in employee cybersecurity awareness training. As we’ve seen, human error often serves as the entry point for cyberattacks, making education and vigilance critical elements in a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
The relative lack of resources should encourage small businesses to take cybersecurity seriously. As attacks grow in complexity and scale, the risk to smaller organizations—already operating on thin margins and susceptible to operational disruptions—becomes exponentially higher. Ignoring the signs and failing to act is not an option; the survival of your business may depend on it.
Businesses across sectors should consider these incidents as cautionary tales and invest earnestly in bolstering their cybersecurity infrastructures. However, the best defense against cyberattacks is not just advanced software or firewalls but an educated and alert workforce.
Cybersecurity is not a destination but an ongoing journey that demands continuous investment and vigilance. A well-informed workforce with thorough cybersecurity awareness training remains the best defense in this constantly changing environment.