By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard
You may or may not have heard that the Houston Astros were hacked and it was apparently done by their former division rivals, the St Louis Cardinals. It’s serious enough that the Department of Justices and the FBI are investigating and subpoenas have been handed out. While many are wondering ‘who did it’ or ‘why’, the rest of us are wondering how has this not happened sooner.
The Astros were alleged victims of hacking last season too when a bunch of internal information hit the Internet. While it is unclear if this new case is related, what we do know is that in this new case the hackers were able to use an old password of Astros GM and former Cardinals executive Jeff Luhnow.
Regardless of who is responsible, this should be the first of a many hacks we will be seeing across the sports landscape. While this isn’t as severe as Stuxnet or the breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OMP), this is sports after all and not national security but it does, technically, fall under the umbrella of ‘corporate espionage’. One entity was possibly attempting to acquire another’s inside information and in the process gain a possible competitive advantage.
Trying to gain a competitive advantage is half of sports though. From stealing signs in baseball to spying on practices to the New England Patriots ‘Spygate’ (Why do the Patriots always get caught up in ‘gate’ anyway?) Trying to gain an advantage has always been and always will be a part of the sports landscape. The question now is if trying to gain that advantage may violate state and federal law.
The Cardinals may have been able to gain a competitive advantage by gaining access to the Astros ‘Ground Control’ application but with everyone using data analytics these days, this can’t possibly be the first time this has happened. The Oakland A’s pioneered the big data revolution back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s so it is hard to believe that over the last 15 years or so that no one has gained access to or capitalized off proprietary baseball information.
Regardless of who, how or why someone ‘hacked’ into another sports franchises proprietary system is almost irrelevant. What matters now is A) how do you protect the data you own and B) if data was taken did it truly provide a measurable competitive advantage? This is the beginning, not the end of this. The consequences of heavy reliance upon analytics is here so we better get use to it.