Websites owned by Las Vegas Sands’ casinos taken down after being hacked

For a brief time Tuesday, websites operated by Las Vegas Sands Corp. looked like scenes out of the 1983 movie “WarGames.”

Those logging on to Venetian.com, Palazzo.com, and LasVegasSands.com, were greeted with various messages, including simulated flames over the company’s casino locations and a photo of Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Only this wasn’t part of a feature film about a simulated game of “Thermonuclear War” that starred Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy.

The casino company’s websites — including its online presence in Macau;Bethlehem, Pa.; and Singapore — were apparently the target of a sophisticated hacking operation.

The images included a scrolling list of personal information, such as employee Social Security numbers, emails and job titles. The websites were taken down and were off-line much of the day.

Anyone accessing the websites’ home pages was greeted with error messages.

It was unclear if any Las Vegas Sands customer information had been revealed during the hacking. Late last year, Las Vegas-based casino operator Affinity Gaming said credit card information for 400,000 customers had been stolen in a security breach.

In a text message statement, Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese said it was unclear how long the websites would be out of service. Reese said the outage also affected Las Vegas Sands’ email capabilities in the U.S.

“Company-operated websites have been hacked, as have some office productivity systems,” Reese said.

“The company is working closely with the appropriate law enforcement agencies to determine who initiated the hacking activity. In addition, the company is using its internal staff and external (information technology) experts to assess the damage and return the systems to full operation. More information will be provided once we have definitely determined what occurred.”

Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said the agency was looking into the hacking. A spokeswoman for the FBI told Bloomberg News the agency was aware of the situation and is “addressing it as appropriate.”

No one claimed responsibility for the attack although the screen shot of hacking carried the tagline “Anti WMD Team.”

Speculation was the hacking was in retaliation for comments made by Adelson last fall during a talk at Yeshiva University in New York. Adelson, a strong advocate of Israel, suggested that the U.S. drop a nuclear weapon on Iran.

The hacked websites had a dialogue box that alluded to Adelson comment’s.

“Damn A, don’t let your tongue cut your throat. Encouraging the use of weapons of mass destruction, under any conditions, is a crime.”

Adelson, who is listed by Forbes as the 11th richest person in the U.S. with a net worth of $28.5 billion, is Las Vegas Sands largest shareholder, controlling more than 53 percent of the company.

Recently, Adelson has said he “will spend whatever it takes” to kill Internet gaming legislation in the U.S. He is funding the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

The group, which has several former elected leaders as paid spokesman, launched its first Web advertisement Monday, which highlights the dangers of Internet gambling. The coalition has touted FBI’s warnings about how criminal networks could take advantage of gambling websites for illegal acts.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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