St Louis Cardinals Hacks Rival Baseball Team

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

It’s just not cricket! FBI probes American baseball team for hacking internal network of rival team

An American baseball team has thrown the security industry something of a curve ball after it was reported that the FBI is investigating the St Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals are one of the most successful American baseball teams, but they are allegedly to have hacked into the internal network of Houston Astros.

Home Run?

According to a report in the New York Times, front-office personnel for the St. Louis Cardinals are under investigation by the FBI. and Justice Department prosecutors. The suspects are accused of hacking the Houston Astros in order to steal closely guarded information about players.

The report cited law enforcement officials as saying that the investigators had uncovered evidence that Cardinals staffers broke into the Astros network that housed special databases the team had built. The stolen data reportedly includes internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports.

The alleged cyber-attack against the Houston Astros is thought to be the first time a professional sports team has been hacked by another.

baseball sport analytics statistics big data © justasc ShutterstockThe intrusion did not appear to be sophisticated, the law enforcement officials said. But it seems that there is bad blood between the two teams, and the attack was allegedly carried out by Cardinals staffers seeking revenge on Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager.

Until 2011, Luhnow had been with the Cardinals team before he jumped ship to the Houston Astros.

Law enforcement officials believe the hacking was executed by vengeful front-office employees for the Cardinals hoping to wreak havoc on the work of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros’ general manager, who had been a successful and polarizing executive with the Cardinals until 2011.

“The St. Louis Cardinals are aware of the investigation into the security breach of the Houston Astros’ database,” the Cardinals said in a statement. “The team has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to do so. Given that this is an ongoing federal investigation, it is not appropriate for us to comment further.”

Competitive Edge

The fact that hacking now appears to have crossed over from being used for corporate espionage or revenge attacks, and into the sports world, has not gone unnoticed by security experts.

“Hacking isn’t always about stealing credit cards, but can also be about access to information to provide a competitive edge,” said Ken Westin, Senior Security Analyst at Tripwire.

“We have increasingly seen this behaviour in business where hackers steal and sell information to competitors or investors to give them an edge,” said Westin. “A baseball team hacking another team is a logical extension of this type of attack, as it is in the end a business as well with high financial stakes, by accessing information on players their goal is to give themselves a competitive edge.”

It should be noted that hacking in the sports environment has also happened on this side of the Atlantic.

In November 2013, a Football Association (FA)-registered referee was charged with perverting the course of justice and unauthorised access to computer data following an 18 month investigation into the alleged hacking of a former FA official.

Dean Mohareb was first arrested in October 2012, when a number of electrical items were seized from his home. The charges centred around the alleged hacking of the personal and work email accounts of Janie Frampton, the FA’s former national referee manager for education and training and the most senior woman in the FA’s refereeing department.

In December 2011, the Russian organising committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup denied that it had hacked the email accounts of England’s bid to host the tournament as well as the US bid for the 2022 World Cup.

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