Are Leagues And Colleges Ignoring Potentially Bigger ‘Integrity’ Issue?

Juan Carlos Blanco July 10, 2018 570 Reads
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When discussing current technology, quite a few members of Congress come off as if they’re still living in an AOL world. Exhibit A – Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg’s April interrogation on Capitol Hill.

Recently, the pro sports leagues – and increasingly, some colleges – seem to be walking a similar path.

They’re railing about the need for integrity fees to help them detect when shady characters with bad wardrobes approach their athletes in dark alleys about throwing a game or shaving a few points. Figuratively speaking. We think.

Meanwhile, they’ve been silent on a potentially pervasive problem, despite the fact it’s probably more of a hot-button issue than ever before – hacking.

Failing to acknowledge internal integrity weaknesses?

And it just so happens that digital security is a matter the leagues and schools have to fully own themselves.

There’s already rightfully been plenty of blowback about the demand that states subsidize efforts at preserving game integrity. The main objection often goes something along the lines of “how the hell do you not already have such systems in place?” The howls would only get louder if the leagues and/or universities were to argue they needed a few dollars for firewalls too.

The reality is that shortcuts and the widespread thievery of data is mainly accomplished through digital means in this day and age. Ask the DNC about that one.

Therefore, while the leagues are saying they need funding for a bigger, badder police force to guard the front door, they could be leaving the back way unattended. A recent New York Times op-ed by Craig Newman, partner and chair of privacy law practice Patterson Belknap Webb and Tyler, explores that very issue.

Digital security potentially the biggest challenge to game integrity

In the piece, Newman highlights the 2015 case of St. Louis Cardinals scouting director Chris Correa as an example of how cybercrime can manifest itself in the sports realm. Correa spent two-plus years tunneling into the Houston Astros database at will and gathering “competitive intelligence’ on the organization’s players before being caught, corporate espionage he’s currently serving prison time for.

Newman goes on to make a case for a potential uptick in similar digital misconduct as legalized sports betting becomes more widespread. Except in this case, it would be bettors or their tech-savvy accomplices doing the breaking and entering.

In his scenario, it’s computers of individual teams that are most vulnerable to malfeasance. Forget trying to sway the unpaid college athlete with a few bucks to fudge an outcome in some form. Instead, he envisions big money being wagered based on sensitive information such as a star player’s true injury status or specific game plans — data gleaned from the efforts of hackers that would make themselves at home in a coach’s laptop or a team’s database.

And Newman argues that one of the hottest new trends in sportswear – wearable technology — could prove to be even more of a goldmine for digital piracy. With access to the latest on an individual player’s overall physiological state heading into a game, a sharp bettor could potentially take his profits to the next level.

Leagues should reevaluate how they allocate policing resources

Some of that may come off as a bit far-fetched to those not quite up with the times. However, technology often moves at a pace way faster than our ability to fully grasp or keep up with it. If the leagues and colleges are genuine in their intentions to ensure the legitimacy of their contests in a legalized sports betting landscape, they’d do well to focus their attention where it’s likely to be needed most.

And these days, the path of least resistance towards a competitive advantage often isn’t through that dark alley – under the right circumstances, it goes straight through the digital highway.