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Mexico lottery hacked as officials refuse to pay ransom to cybercriminals
The Mexican lottery was hacked in May, as part of an effort from cybercriminals to obtain private documents from the lottery operator.
The Mexican Lottery operator warned that private information obtained during a cyberattack in mid-May could jeopardize ongoing investigations carried out by the Attorney General Office (FGR).
The National Lottery for Public Assistance (Lotenal) said in a statement that a group of hackers calling themselves “Avaddon”, stole large amounts of private and financial information from the institution in the form of logs and emails.
In response to a request for public information, Lotenal refused to deliver the documentation to the media, on the grounds that it is now part of an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.
Lotenal argued that the disclosure of requested information would hinder investigations carried out by the authorities, which would cause the defendants to anticipate the judicial proceedings and compromise the personal integrity of those involved.
On the morning of 16th June, the director of Lotenal, Margarita González Saravia, stated that on 14th May 2021 the institution had suffered a cyberattack, although she rejected that Lotenal had paid a ransom, stating: “We were not going to fall for blackmail.”
“These are international hackers who break into different companies around the world and hack information. In the case of the Lottery, they obtained administrative information and how it is public information.” González Saravia ensured the media that sensitive information from the country’s National Lottery was not compromised.
The Avaddon group had given Lotenal ten days to pay the ransom for the information and threatened to reveal cases of sexual harassment within the public company if it did not comply with their demands.
On 1st June, Lotenal published a statement reporting that it had begun a nationwide cybersecurity update, to ensure that all future information would be secure in all areas.
The company also specified that the contests and raffles carried out through the month of May were not affected by the attack and continued operating normally. Prize payout is guaranteed.
Brazil’s illegal lottery just can’t be tamed
There is a popular illegal lottery operating in Brazil, known as the Jogo do Bicho (the ‘Bug’s Game’).
The origin of this game stems from a late 19th century Baron named João Batista Drummond, who wanted to attract visitors to his zoo in Vila Isabel, the northern area of Rio de Janeiro.
Each morning, the baron chose an animal from a list of 25 in the zoo and placed its image in a wooden box at the entrance. Visitors bought a ticket with the stamp of one of those 25 animals. At the end of the day, he unveiled the box and whoever had the corresponding ticket won a prize 20 times its value.
The game was very successful, spreading throughout Rio in the decade that followed. But it quickly spiralled out of control and by 1946, all gambling was declared illegal.
The lottery that became Pandora’s Box
Gambling prohibition has done little to deter citizens from selling tickets or placing bets on the game, which has continued to thrive to this day, despite it being outlawed in all of Brazil’s 26 states.
One reason for this is the lack of litigation surrounds the crime itself. Although gambling is illegal, the law has never come down hard on any of its conspirators. Official policy continues to fluctuate between tolerance of the game, sometimes motivated by corruption, and intermittent campaigns to crack down on gambling. A large-scale crackdown on the game in 1966 nearly paralysed the city of São Paulo, with over 60,000 people left with no source of income.
Even today, gambling is still only considered a minor offence, with a sentence of between 4-12 months in prison. Therefore the punishment is not considered enough of a deterrent on vendors profits.
The Game Rules
In the game, each of the 25 animals corresponds to four numbers. There are several ways to bet, but normally, if the last two digits of the winning number of the Brazilian national lottery match the animal whose ticket you have, you win.
There are other more ambitious formats, which rise and fall according to popularity. Vendors often create new rules in hopes to entice more customers. When a new model works in one place, it will probably be copied throughout the local area until a newer version appears.
A study found that the Bug Lottery raised between 200 and 500 million euros in Brazil in 2014, a figure that some consider to be drastically underestimated.
Superstitions help encourage game popularity
The game is characterized in part thanks to deeply rooted superstition. Having a photo of an animal you can choose made the game much more interesting and allowed patrons to feel they exert some sort of will over the game, beyond the numbers. And, over time, this led people to interpret dreams, number patterns on license plates and newspaper headlines.
A recent train crash featured in a newspaper showing a certain lottery number caused a surge in sales, to the point where vendors were forced to close their doors to bidders, fearing too many tickets sold would overwhelm the lottery’s jackpot.
Why gamble illegally? Brazil’s answer
Despite being run by criminals, people in Brazil trust vendors when they gamble. This is partially due to predetermined draws and set jackpots, and also having faith in their vendors to deliver them a win. In addition, the business directly finances cultural or popular initiatives, such as the famous Brazilian Carnival, which in turn bolsters tourism, creates jobs and helps lift school systems out of poverty.
Despite being born in a Zoo, the wild beast known as the Jogo do Bicho continues to thrive and shows no sign of being tamed by authorities yet.