A laptop apparently stolen from a top-flight poker pro's hotel room and mysteriously returned while he played in a card tournament was infected by spyware.
That's according to security firm F-Secure, which today said it had analyzed the computer, owned by ace player Jens Kyllönen. The Java-written malware on the machine could allow a attacker, perhaps a card-shark, to remotely view screenshots and log activity on the PC.
While such spyware is hardly uncommon, the F-Secure researchers were intrigued by the way in which the software nasty was apparently installed.
Kyllönen, who rocked up at the antivirus biz's HQ in an Audi R8 with the laptop to inspect, believes the infection occurred while he played in a poker tournament at a resort in Barcelona. He said during a break he returned to his room and found his laptop missing, only for it to be returned later with signs of a possible infection.
According to F-Secure, the notebook was in fact infected with a remote monitoring tool that activated upon system startup. Researchers believe that the malware was installed via a USB device and that a similar infection was introduced to the computer of another player staying in the same room.
That poker aces, who win big both on and offline, would be subjected to a spyware installation is no accident, say the researchers. By installing tools to covertly snoop on the screen of high-stakes online players, a rival could gain the upper hand in a game by spying his opponent's hand.
"This is not the first time professional poker players have been targeted with tailor-made trojans," F-Secure said in its report.
"We have investigated several cases that have been used to steal hundreds of thousands of euros. What makes these cases noteworthy is that they were not online attacks. The attacker went through the trouble of targeting the victims' systems on site."
Such well-targeted, "spear phishing" operations rely on detailed reconnaissance to gather information about the individual which can be exploited to carry out an attack.
It's possible Kyllönen's machine was infected in some other way, but that doesn't marry with his claim that the laptop went missing.
In any case, F-Secure suggests that anyone who could be subject to such an attack, be they a poker pro or an executive on a business trip, consider real-world protections for their systems, such as device locks and room safes. If you trust the safe and hotel staff, of course. ®