Sports Hacking And It’s Risks

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Former St Louis Cardinals Scouting Director Chris Correa was finally sentenced today for his role in the 2014 hack of the Houston Astros. He faces 46 months behind bars and a fine of over $250k. It seems pretty harsh but it raises a bigger question which is how secure are sports organizations data?

I wrote about this issue last year when it came to light. I wanted to know two fundamental things; 1) how does a team go about protecting it’s data and 2) if data was taken did it truly provide a measurable competitive advantage? In this case the federal prosecutors claimed that it cost the Astros $1.7 million. Does $1.7 million equal 46 months in prison? I think that is very much up for debate.

Some may feel that the sentence is harsh but when you look at the amount of statistical data floating around in MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and MLS and how much teams have come to rely on that data to select and identify potential season ticket holders, then one could argue that this sentence provides a deterrent to other individuals from attempting a similar thing. It doesn’t provide a deterrent to outside actors.

The fact is that we as a society do not know the boundaries yet for cyber crime which is what Correa was convicted of. In this case it would appear to be a law enforcement issue as data was take from a database without the owners knowledge or approval and it involved US citizens. However what if this was similar to the Sony hack? How does that change the game? (Pun intended.) Is this then just a law enforcement issue?

Former Gen. Michael Hayden talked about some of this in presentation this past January (pick it up around the 15 minute mark and no you can’t see his slides). What if, and yes we are in hypotheticals here, but what if Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban made a negative remark Russia that Russia took personally? Would that put the Mavericks database at risk? Would it put their season ticket holders information at risk? We already have precedent with the Sands Casino hack back in 2014 of a high profile individual making remarks that the Iranians didn’t like. You saw what happened there.

What responsibility did the Astros have to secure their own data? Doesn’t the blame, in part, fall on them? Yes Correa had to make the choice to infiltrate their network however it does appear that once inside he had full reign. One could argue that the Astros should have had an extra layer of authentication like an RSA key in order to gain access to their proprietary network.

Sports organizations with all their data and high profiles need to start looking at themselves in the context of everything else. While this case is about gaining access to player information and potential player acquisitions, it raises a much bigger question about sports franchises level as a target to outside actors. What if China decided to hack the New York Yankees or the Dallas Cowboys and release all of the season ticket holder info? Two iconic American brands hacked because the US Government did something that the Chinese didn’t like.

Impossible? It’s really not that far off. In any event Correa isn’t a terrorist or a state sponsor of one. He isn’t an Eastern European criminal gang but he is going to prison none the less. And one last point, neither of these teams have won the World Series in the last few years so is 46 months really a fitting punishment?

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Digital Dugout

By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard


Normally Major League Baseball (MLB) is the last sports league to adopt change much less technological change when it involves the game itself. Tradition is very important to the gatekeepers of baseball which is why a partnership with Apple to allow iPads in the dugout during games is all the more shocking. This change is a quantum leap in a lot regards and puts MLB in front of the other major sports when it comes to using technology during a game.

Apple’s iPad Pro and an app called Dugout will allow each team to access their own proprietary data during a game. This is includes video if the player or coach so desires. Now think about this for a second, the NFL and their much ballyhooed deal with Microsoft to allow Surface tablets on the sidelines only allow pictures and even those are limited. Meanwhile, the old school MLB is going to allow actual video and hopes to get to a point where it’s real time sometime in the near future.

The handoff  is going to be key. As Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon pointed out, until you have AI moving at the speed of thought there is going to be limit to the technology. The anticipation, preparation, etc will eventually come but Maddon makes the same point that Bill Gates made years ago which is that the computer needs to be as easy as a piece of paper.

There must have been some hesitation in the offices of general managers and mangers across the league when this idea was initially floated. Why? Well there is always the old school fear that the other team will ‘steal your signals’ but the most recent technological example is when the Houston Astros were ‘hacked’ by the St Louis Cardinals.

Regardless of the past, come Opening Day players and coaches can ditch the binders (if they want) and grab the iPad to access information. A massive leap indeed for MLB and a move that will have other leagues monitoring the move closely.

 

 

Hacking Baseball

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.

HACKING

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.

What To Watch Thurs. June 25th -Sun. June 28th

All times are Pacific.

Thursday June 25th

NBA Draft – 4pm ESPN: Well there isn’t a LeBron or Jordan in there but it’s entertaining none the less.

Ottawa Redblacks at Montreal Alouettes – 4:30pm ESPN2: It’s Football!!!! We can only hope that the Redblacks will be better than the 2-16 they put up last year.

NY Yankees at Houston Astros – 5pm MLB Network: Yankees are game behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and the Astros are the surprise team of 2015 baseball season.

REMOTE

Friday June 26th

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Calgary Stampeders – 6pm ESPN2: A rematch of last years Grey Cup. Not a bad game for opening weekend.

NHL Draft – 4pm NBCSN: While it doesn’t get the fanfare the NBA Draft will get, it is still a first look at the future of the sport.

 

Saturday June 27th

Toronto FC vs DC United – 2pm MLS Live: Two of the better teams in the East and a chance to see some big time stars like Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

College Soccer National Championship – 2pm ESPNU: Virginia vs UCLA as UVA goes their second National Title in four days in two different sports.

NE Revolution vs Vancouver Whitecaps – 4:30pm MLS Live: Second place team in the East vs the second place team in the West.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Saskatchewan Roughriders – 5pm ESPN3: Probably the best venue in all of the CFL plus Rider quarterback Darian Durantis back. If he can stay healthy the Riders are a force to be reckoned with in the East.

 

Sunday June 28th

NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls – 1:30pm ESPN: Three points separate these two teams. Hell, the distance between stadiums is more than that.

Portland Timbers vs Seattle Sounders – 4pm FS1: No Clint Dempsey but it’s still the best rivalry in MLS.

Chicago Cubs at St Louis Cardinals – 5pm ESPN: Two of baseball’s oldest rivals. Not to mention that they are first and second in the NL Central.

 

 

What To Watch Fri. 6/12 – Sun. 6/14

All times are Pacific.

Friday June 12th

USWNT vs Sweden – 5pm FOX: Coming off a 3-1 win over Australia in their first match, the US Women’s National teams looks to get a step close to the knock out stage of the Women’s World Cup.

Kansas City Royals at St Louis Cardinals – 5:15pm MLB.TV: In state rivals and division leaders square off for a weekend series in one of the best baseball cities in North America.

 

Saturday June 13th

College World Series: Arkansas vs Virginia – Noon ESPN: First game of the 2015 College World Series.

Minnesota Twins at Texas Rangers – 1pm MLB.TV: Both teams have shown a lot of promise this season and it’s a decent pitching matchup too.

Stanley Cup Final: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning – 5:20pm NBC: Series is tied so it’s the best two out of three.

UFC 188 – 7pm PPV: Heavyweight unification bout between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. Velasquez hasn’t been inside the octagon since October 2013. That’s a long layoff only to face a seasoned vet like Werdum.

 

Sunday June 14th

Nascar Quicken Loans 400 – 10am FS1:  Sunday’s are for racing. FACT.

Orlando City FC vs DC United – 4pm FS1: East leading DC United flies into a hornets nest in Orlando.

NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors – 5pm ABC: Game five goes down in Oakland.

What to Watch Fri. 4/3 – Sun. 4/5

All times are Pacific.

Friday April 3rd

Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies – 5pm ESPN: Two teams gearing up for the playoffs. Should make things interesting.

Montreal Canadiens at Washington Capitals – 4pm NHL Gamecenter: The Habs are locked into the playoffs while the Caps need to keep on winning if they want that Wildcard slot.

REMOTE

 

Saturday April 4th

Liverpool vs Arsenal – 4:45am NBCSN: A solid match first thing Saturday morning.

Vancouver Canucks at Winnipeg Jets – Noon NHL Network: Winnipeg is on the edge of the playoff chase and the Canucks are looking to secure a spot.

Final Four: Michigan State Spartans vs Duke Blue Devils – 3pm TBS: Great matchup between two of the best coaches in college basketball.

Final Four: Wisconsin Badgers vs Kentucky Wildcats – 5:45pm TBS: This is the matchup we’ve been waiting for this college basketball season. Holla!

Portland Timbers vs FC Dallas – 7:30pm MLS Live: While FC Dallas leads the West (and MLS) with 10pts in four games but Portland is the tough place to play and they really need a win.

 

Sunday April 5th

Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder – 10am ABC: Two teams looking at the playoffs and wondering, ‘Are we gonna play these guys in a month?’

Golden State Warriors at San Antonio Spurs – 4pm NBA TV: The defending champs are starting to get into playoff form. While it’s a regular season game, it will be fun to see how these two teams matchup if they were to meet in a seven game series.

St Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks – 4:30pm NBCSN: Two teams jockeying for playoff position.

St Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs – 5pm ESPN2: Baseball is back and it’s a St Louis vs Chicago kind of day.