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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.

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As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.