MGM attack is too late a wake-up call for businesses, says James Fair: Lock and Code S04E22

This week on the Lock and Code podcast…

In September, the Las Vegas casino and hotel operator MGM Resorts became a trending topic on social media… but for all the wrong reasons. A TikTok user posted a video taken from inside the casino floor of the MGM Grand—the company’s flagship hotel complex near the southern end of the Las Vegas strip—that didn’t involve the whirring of slot machines or the sirens and buzzers of sweepstake earnings, but, instead, row after row of digital gambling machines with blank, non-functional screens. That same TikTok user commented on their own post that it wasn’t just errored-out gambling machines that were causing problems—hotel guests were also having trouble getting into their own rooms.

As the user said online about their own experience: “Digital keys weren’t working. Had to get physical keys printed. They doubled booked our room so we walked in on someone.”

The trouble didn’t stop there.

A separate photo shared online allegedly showed what looked like a Walkie-Talkie affixed to an elevator’s handrail. Above the device was a piece of paper and a message written by hand: “For any elevator issues, please use the radio for support.”  

As the public would soon learn, MGM Resorts was the victim of a cyberattack, reportedly carried out by a group of criminals called Scattered Spider, which used the ALPHV ransomware.

It was one of the most publicly-exposed cyberattacks in recent history. But just a few days before the public saw the end result, the same cybercriminal group received a reported $15 million ransom payment from a separate victim situated just one and a half miles away.

On September 14, Caesar’s Entertainment reported in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it, too, had suffered a cyber breach, and according to reporting from CNBC, it received a $30 million ransom demand, which it then negotiated down by about 50 percent.

The social media flurry, the TikTok videos, the comments and confusion from customers, the ghost-town casino floors captured in photographs—it all added up to something strange and new: Vegas was breached. 

But how? 

Though follow-on reporting suggests a particularly effective social engineering scam, the attacks themselves revealed a more troubling, potential vulnerability for businesses everywhere, which is that a company’s budget—and its relative ability to devote resources to cybersecurity—doesn’t necessarily insulate it from attacks. 

Today on the Lock and Code podcast with host David Ruiz, we speak with James Fair, senior vice president of IT Services at the managed IT services company Executech, about whether businesses are taking cybersecurity seriously enough, which industries he’s seen pushback from for initial cybersecurity recommendations (and why), and the frustration of seeing some companies only take cybersecurity seriously after a major attack. 

“How many do we have to see? MGM got hit, you guys. Some of the biggest targets out there—people who have more cybersecurity budget than people can imagine—got hit. So, what are you waiting for?”

Tune in today to listen to the full conversation.

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Show notes and credits:

Intro Music: “Spellbound” by Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
Outro Music: “Good God” by Wowa (