There have been many instances of poker players having their accounts hacked. I have never been hacked, partially because of luck and partially because of preparation. If you play microstakes, you are at pretty low risk for hacks, but why not protect your money anyway?
There are very complete guides to poker account security that you should definitely read in addition to this article. Those guides cover more complete computer security issues that will help protect you. I will make a quick bullet list of things that are more poker specific that you should be aware of.
- Use a separate e-mail for poker and make sure the "secret question" isn't something someone can easily obtain by searching Google or looking up public records. Your e-mail account is the key to your poker account. If your e-mail provider allows, make sure to set up a phone number or backup e-mail account to be able to regain control of your account.
- Don't tell people what your poker e-mail is, and don't use the e-mail to sign-up for anything else. Just recently, Cardrunners and PTR got hacked into and e-mail addresses were stolen. A clever hacker could use this information to connect a screenname with an e-mail to either reset the password or to use the e-mail to login and run a dictionary attack.
- Use a strong password for your poker accounts, and don't use it for other accounts. To be extra safe, use different passwords for each poker account. Use KeePass to manage these.
- It is possible for a hacker to hijack your poker account if you are logged into your account and he is on the same wireless network as you. Usually attacks like this come from someone knowing that you are a poker player, meaning this could be a roommate or someone at a poker tournament with you. This means avoid using your poker or e-mail accounts on shared connections unless you connect through a VPN. I use StrongVPN and have had no problems with their service. The small fee is well worth the increase in security. Make sure to get a VPN based in your home country (and definitely NOT the USA) or else you may get your account temporarily locked.
- Speaking of trust issues, don't save your password on your computer. It only takes one drunken night for your roommate/girlfriend/dog to empty your account.
- A common form of coaching is the sweat session, where one player uses screen sharing software such as TeamViewer or Mikogo. Make sure you know how to use these software programs correctly, as they have options that allow the other user to control your desktop and potentially steal your money. You only want to let your coach or friend see your screen, but not be able to control anything. Even in view only mode you are at risk for the viewer to use your hole card information against you. Be very wary if someone suggests to you a particular table or opponent and if anything feels strange to you just find new opponents or end the session.
- Be wary of links to download software. Only download poker software from trusted sources (such as the official sites of the software, not download repositories) and avoid pirating them. This is potentially true for all software, but no one is going to install a hole card viewing exploit into the latest Batman movie. I have never heard of this actually happening, but definitely stick to trusted sources of software.
- Use a security token if available. A security token can prevent keyloggers being employed to gain access to your account and complicates the process of resetting your password via e-mail.
Nothing is foolproof, and to be completely honest - I don't do everything on this list. Some of the stuff won't matter that much, but if losing the money will be catastrophic, by all means do everything on this list and more.
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