Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

If you have ever doubted original sin, the idea that human nature is corrupted, the internet should have cured you by now.  The means of putting the world at your finger-tips has also brought us instant sadism, pornography, political sleaze, access to every weird idea ever thought, scams, identity theft, and much more.

Churchill Downs Incorporated recently found out how quickly things can unravel.  In December the corporation acquired Big Fish, an online gaming company, for $885 million.  You remember Churchill, the company that has trouble finding money to maintain purses at the track and needs casinos?  The latest drive is to dominate on-line gambling, hence the launch of Luckity, which was a real dog and discontinued, followed by Twin Spires either the first or second most successful on-line horse racing site, depending on whom you ask.  Churchill followed with the acquisition of Bluff Media, a poker full service company in 2011, and now Big Fish, an on-line game builder and operator.

Just a week later (December 24) a security breach put credit card information at the mercy of hackers.   Churchill claims the breach affected only “a small percentage of our total customers.”  Let’s see, is that a few hundred thousand or several million customers?  For Big Fish, they got the money, and now have entered the world of Big Gambling where security breaches are more common and information about them is closely controlled.

On January 12 Big Fish discovered malware installed on its payment and billing operations.  The malware may have accessed only new customers, so the number may indeed have been smaller.  The malware was removed and steps to prevent reintroduction were taken.  Law enforcement was notified, along with all affected customers who were offered a one year identity theft program free.

Paul Thelen, founder and CEO of Big Fish, called Churchill a great cultural fit for Big Fish.  What’s that?  The culture of losing money?  So, one hacker’s fun can cost society great amounts to fix.  Such is the joy of the computer age!   See also SC Magazine, Adam Greenberg, “Big Fish Games notifies customers of payment card breach,” February 18, 2015.