TribalNet: Gaming tech exec says it’s time finally to talk about cybersecurity

September 21, 2023 8:57 AM
Photo: Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
September 21, 2023 8:57 AM

In the wake of the hack on MGM Resorts, a gaming manufacturer executive told the TribalNet technology conference that it’s time the industry has a frank conversation about cybersecurity.

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Late Tuesday, MGM issued a statement that its services across its properties are “operating normally” as it deals with the second week of the attack that knocked slots out of commission and interrupted other services.

“Our resort services, dining, entertainment, pools, and spas are operating normally and welcoming thousands of guests each day,” the statement said. “Our gaming floors, including slots, table games, and poker rooms are open. Visitors to all of our properties may use slot dollars and free play, and our slots are recording gaming spend.”

The MGM cyberattack came up again on Tuesday during a panel discussion on what’s new in gaming management system technology. Mark Badal, executive director of IT and infosec for Chumash Enterprises, asked Jon Wolfe, president of global systems and services for Light & Wonder, about his company’s cybersecurity strategy and how to ensure its gaming systems are safe and network secure.

Wolfe responded that a collection of individuals have pieces of their technology stack working with the legal team and others.

Cybersecurity touches so many different aspects, from data security, application, and training all the way down to developers and engineers to make sure they’re using best practices as they build products, Wolfe said. He called Light & Wonder’s cybersecurity “pretty robust with a lot of people involved and owning different parts of it.” He then called for an industrywide conversation about it.

“This is something the industry hasn’t been willing to have an open conversation about the last few years,” Wolfe said. “It’s a very pervasive problem that people want to sweep under the rug quite a bit. They don’t want to be the poster child of this. When there’s an incident, they don’t want to talk about it and there are certainly legal risks with that.”

Although the MGM event is bad for the gaming industry, Wolfe said there will now be “open dialogue,” and some of the bigger companies are starting to take a more active role.

“We’re working on educating on best practices, making some recommendations, and putting commitments in support agreements around cybersecurity and protection. We’re also launching products around that.”

Wolfe said they’ve redone their operating system and have a partnership with SentinelOne. Cybersecurity protection software has been embedded and is actively protecting and monitoring the floor.

“We’re taking a more proactive role in being aware of cybersecurity threats and protecting the network against threats from inside the product suite rather than the outside,” Wolfe said. “We’re going to continue to exploit those types of opportunities with new products at G2E focused on that.”

Badal told the audience that the gaming industry is being stereotyped as slow to advance. “I had a conversation the other day about how the gaming industry is five years behind.”

Wolfe told Badal that the industry isn’t innovating “nearly fast enough and is too incremental. We’re not moving as fast as other industries and not embracing new technologies and we’re focused on too narrow a set of things,” Wolfe said. “We’re trying to do one or two things rather than a comprehensive job.”

Wolfe said they’re “hyper-focused” on innovation at Light & Wonder by breaking off 25% of its research-and-development resources that are dedicated to an innovation track. That’s going to rise to 40% in December.

“We’re really doubling down on innovation on every touch point in the customer journey and that includes data, mobile, and modernization. It comes down to doing a hundred things 1% better and not two or three things better. We’re pushing the envelope with innovation, new products, and new ideas and not just elevating our customers against their competitors.”

Wolfe said the industry needs to start reinvesting heavily in innovation and agreed with Badal’s premise in part.

“It’s time for everybody at this table to not just double down, but triple and quadruple down on innovation and really start moving our customers along at light speed. We have an obligation to elevate the industry against other outside threats.”