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Euro 2004 extortion bonanza?

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European soccer betting sites are increasingly targeted by cyber extortionists, German computer magazine c't reports. Sites are flooded with spurious requests (distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack) in an attempt to force online bookmakers to cough up or face shutdown.

Criminals may turn up the heat in preparation for the Euro 2004 semi-finals and finals later this week. Betting site Betfair, dubbed the eBay of gambling, estimates that wagers on its website for the Euro 2004 tournament alone will hit $200m.

Criminals demand up to $15,000 for protection from DDoS attacks, c't says. German betting site Mybet was pounded for over 16 hours. c't estimates that the losses as a result of the attacks are far greater than the money demanded by the criminals.

The criminal gangs are believed to operate from eastern Europe, but some of the attacks are also orchestrated from Latin America, often with the aid of zombies. At least two groups control tens of thousands of compromised PCs, some sources believe.

In recent months, several major British bookmakers have come under attack, including William Hill, Totalbet, UKbetting and Sporting Options.

BetWWTS.com in Antigua was forced to pay $30,000 when cyber criminals shuttered its site and customers couldn't place wagers worth $5m, according to USA Today. Other betting sites have gone out of business completely or abandoned websites in favor of phones. ®

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