Adventures in slot machine hacking
Rodolfo Rodriquez Cabrera started to hack into and clone IGT slot machines as a form of flattery. Then he started to make money at it -- eventually creating an overseas counterfeit slot empire that spanned multiple countries. And eventually landed him in very hot water. From Wired:
Cabrera was particularly fond of the slots made by Nevada-based International Game Technology, which he considered by far the industry’s most advanced. Like all slots, IGT’s machines are powered by proprietary circuit boards equipped with rows of memory cards; those cards, in turn, contain each game’s unique software. To prevent piracy, the boards are designed to reject memory cards unless they’re accompanied by a security chip programmed with an uncrackable authorization code. Like any good hacker, Cabrera decided to express his admiration for IGT’s technology by trying to beat it. Using blueprints meant to assist casino service personnel, he figured out a way to solder a half-dozen jumper wires between the memory cards and the motherboards, completing circuits that circumvented the machine’s security. This gave him the ability to load any IGT game he wanted onto the boards. If he was given a used Pharaoh’s Gold machine, for example, he could convert it to a Cleopatra II by swapping in freshly programmed memory cards.