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How Autotote Insider Rigged the System

By Larry Barrett Print this article Print

Worried about outsiders breaking into your network? Don't overlook your own employees. Just ask Autotote, where a software developer almost stole a $3 million jackpot.

Serious handicappers betting on ponies know they're always bucking the odds.

But the rigging of the Pick Six payoff at the Breeder's Cup championship showed how trusted insiders can manipulate networks to steal from unsuspecting bettors—long before the horses get to the gate. PDF Download

The million-dollar fiasco is not an isolated problem. The truth is, any company that handles financial transactions or valuable information electronically runs the risk of being fleeced by its own technology staff—or users. Just in the last couple of months, Columbia University undergraduates got caught using digital photography and wireless transmission to cheat on graduate school entrance exams; and, thieves succeeded in stealing the credit histories of 30,000 people thanks to help from a low-level technology insider who had easy access to the information.

In the horse racing case, a 29-year-old software developer confessed last month to masterminding a plot to use his position as a senior technology staff member at Autotote Systems to alter bets placed by a co-conspirator. The plan was to collect more than $3 million by picking six winners in Breeder's Cup races.

Autotote executives say the staffer, Chris Harn, had "the highest level" of access—sometimes referred to as a "super-user"—to Autotote's network, and was actually responsible for monitoring and maintaining the network from the company's Delaware headquarters.

"You have to understand that this individual was one of, if not the most trusted member of our (IT) team," says Rhonda Barnat, a spokeswoman for Autotote. "That someone you trust so much would do something like this is just devastating."

This article was originally published on 2002-12-01
Senior Writer
Larry, of San Carlos, Calif., was a senior writer and editor at CNet, writing analysis, breaking news and opinion stories. He was technology reporter at the San Jose Business Journal from 1996-1997. He graduated with a B.A. from San Jose State University where he was also executive editor of the daily student newspaper.
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