October 8, 2021 3 min read


NIGA Forms a Task Force Against Cyberattacks

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has had enough of hackers and will strike back by assembling a cyber task force. This move comes in response to the frequent cyberattacks against tribal casinos.

Assembling a Task Force Against Cyberattacks

On Tuesday, during the Global Gaming Expo, the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) confirmed that two more attacks have occurred. The commission refused to name the victims of the raids, although other reports claim that those were New Mexico’s Tesuque Casino and Wisconsin’s Ho-Chunk Nation.

The tribal gambling bodies will not just stay idly, however. The chairman of NIGA, Ernie Stevens, revealed to CDC Gaming Reports that hackers would target any profitable industry and it’s important for such businesses to take care of themselves. That’s why the association is assembling a cyber task force that will intercept and combat hackers.

The NIGA started assembling this task force in July, but it’s still undergoing some training. Stevens said that the association takes the hacking issue very seriously and will do its best to tackle it. He didn’t reveal much more as he doesn’t want hackers to be prepared for the NIGA’s next moves. The chairman only mentioned his plans to go on the offensive.

“Indian country is used to defending territory. We’ve had years of these types of issues where we have to adapt. We have the expertise and knowledge and capable folks. Not only will we protect our own, but we’ll also help others around us.”

Stevens concluded that he is not looking for trouble, but rather seeks to protect what’s dear to him.

The task force will be joined by TribalHub. The latter company’s CEO, Mike Day, commented on the frequent attacks, stating, “It’s not faring well for tribes. Let’s put it that way. They haven’t done the best job of getting prepared for this stuff.”

The Problem Persists But Action Can be Taken

The problem with hackers targeting tribal casinos has only intensified in recent years. The NIGC estimates that between 2019 and now, instances of cyberattacks have increased tenfold. Just this June, six Oklahoma tribal casinos had to close for a while after being subjected to organized cyberattacks.

The NIGC fears that there might be more attacks that meet the eye as tribal operators aren’t obliged to report them. The commission is considering changing that rule in order to better monitor the hacking activities. 

The usual type of attack is the so-called ransomware, where hackers encrypt files and demand to be paid before decrypting them. The data oftentimes includes sensitive customer data, forcing the casinos to pay ransoms that sometimes reach as high as $1 million. The commission advises operators to be vigilant and careful with the data they manage for both their own and their customers’ sake.

NIGC IT audit manager Tim Cotton warned that, sometimes, hackers might not return the data even after getting paid. He is firm that the hackers are the kind of people who will grab every opportunity to attack. Those attacks are usually well-researched and coordinated, making it difficult to fight back. Cotton lamented that there isn’t an ending to this issue in sight.

There is some hope, as a better defensive infrastructure can at least diminish the number of successful attacks and/or mitigate the damage they cause. Tribal structures are currently working on bolstering their defenses. The NIGA’s task force is an important step to protecting the tribal gambling structure.


Yasmin is an iGaming and gaming journalist with over 10 years of writing about various publications. Her experience spans the entirety of iGaming, traditional sports, as well as online poker. She is well-versed in every aspect of online gaming and her wealth of knowledge provides additional substance to our coverage.

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