The impact of the pandemic on the iGaming sector was one of the hottest topics at our recent ‘The Return of the Leaders and Legends’ webinar. The six panellists, from some of the biggest companies in the industry, spoke about the challenges and opportunities created during lockdowns, new security risks which emerged, and their views on the long term impacts of the Covid crisis. Our Chief Product Officer, Justin Cosnett, reflects on the discussion, how Continent 8 have handled challenges posed by the pandemic, and the lessons we can learn from this.
Despite all of the obvious challenges, from an iGaming industry perspective all of the panellists agreed that 2020 had been a valuable learning experience. Businesses had to find new ways of working, and to think even more creatively about how to engage with customers – so, out of adversity and necessity, the leaders agreed that positive developments emerged that are being taken forward. Scientific Games Digital CEO Jordan Levin and Playtech COO Shimon Akad both described it as a ‘year of learning’.
Levin went on to explain some of the challenges that were also faced across the industry, and the improvisation that was required to resolve problems such as how to bring in new employees, and open new offices while everyone was working remotely. He said: “For me it was an extremely enriching year from a learning perspective in terms of how the business evolved. From a business perspective, how do we form solid partnerships with our customers, in a world where we are used to going traveling and seeing them in person, how do we do that virtually? We established lots of new tools from a communications perspective, we launched 25 new sportsbook and iGaming platforms for our customers around the globe in 2020. Being able to do that amidst new ways of working, changing teams, it was a chaotic yet exciting and enriching year.”
Yaniv Sherman, Senior VP, US, 888 Holdings PLC, said that in 2020 it was easier to keep things in motion, rather than initiate new projects – and there was a general consensus amongst the panellists that a ‘hybrid’ model (based on a balance of working in the office and from home) will become part of the ‘new normal’ for the industry.
That view is shared by Continent 8. Before the pandemic and lockdowns began, we already had a substantial number of people working remotely, so we were very familiar with using online collaboration, messaging and meeting tools. Of course, lockdowns gave us no choice but to work that way and, like all of the panellists, we have learned a great deal from the experience. We’ve adapted to a new way of communicating. Our global sales team would usually be on the road and travelling, attending expos, networking events and meeting with existing and prospective customers face-to-face. That ended overnight and while the sales team are keen to travel and meet people once again, it’s certainly changed the way we interact with our customers. We’ve had to adapt, and while this has its challenges, it also creates opportunities.
A great example of that is The Return of the Leaders and Legends webinar. Following the success of the panel event we held at ICE London 2020, we wanted to bring it back at ICE 2021. Of course, the event at ExCeL didn’t go ahead, so we had to move to a digital platform – but that meant more people could watch it live than could physically have attended to watch it on our stand, if ICE 2021 had gone ahead.
Increased cybersecurity risks
The leaders and legends acknowledged that the pandemic had been exploited by bad actors to launch more cyberattacks. In Q2 2020 Continent 8 saw cyber-attacks increase by 55% compared with the same period in 2019, and we mitigated the longest sustained DDoS attack in our history (36.4 hours in Q4 2020). Compared to previous years, there was also a rise in the volume, complexity and frequency of DDoS attacks.
Phishing attacks and other scams – cynically targeted to exploit natural human anxieties and fears – also increased significantly, for example email scams that were based on hoax vaccination appointment invitations. At the other end of the scale were sophisticated phishing attacks that fall into the category of ‘cyber espionage’ – one example being the targeting of the international vaccine supply chain (believed by IBM to have been carried out by a nation state, according to this BBC report in December).
Examples like this go to show what a significant year 2020 was from a cybersecurity threat perspective. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, DDoS and web application attacks were rising year on year. That was largely due to three factors – the price of generating an attack continuing to fall, more devices becoming available to use to make an attack (e.g., Internet of Things devices), and the fact that there is so much cheap bandwidth capacity available to distribute the attack. When lockdowns resulted in millions more people working from home it created a perfect storm – and that opened up many more attack verticals for bad actors looking to exploit individuals or attack unsecured remote devices.
Ensuring business as usual
Despite the pandemic, as the leaders explained, the iGaming industry was as busy as ever. The industry never slows down – and neither do we. We continued to invest in people and products, entered new markets, partnered with new clients, and continued to expand our global network which now spans more than 60 locations.
The pandemic led to significant growth in legitimate traffic to iGaming providers on our own network. Due to the dynamic nature of our industry, we already had plenty of scalability and resilience engineered in, so we have been able to easily cope with any peaks of traffic – whether that’s from our customer networks as more end users turn to iGaming to pass the time in lockdown, or from the increased number our own people now needing regular access to our networks from home.
The most important lesson that the iGaming industry can learn from the impact of the pandemic is that while cyber threats are always evolving, the Covid crisis has caused a seismic shift in the cybersecurity landscape. That means world class cybersecurity solutions are more essential than ever before to ensure business continuity, and stay ahead in the constant battle to protect mission-critical data and end users.
Hear Jordan’s summary on the pandemic below.
Please check our ‘News & Blogs’ section soon for the next blog in this series.
You can find the full recording of our ‘The Return of the Leaders and Legends’ webinar here