Las Vegas Sands Corp., the world’s largest casino operator, was attacked by hackers who defaced at least one company website and posted personal information about employees.
The unidentified intruders temporarily took over the home page of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, posting statements criticizing Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson, a staunch supporter of Israel, over comments he made about Iran and its nuclear program.
Visitors to company websites today were told they are undergoing maintenance. On-screen messages provided phone numbers for the properties.
While a connection hasn’t been proven, the attack could represent the first time Adelson’s business empire has felt an impact from his high-profile positions on politics and foreign affairs. The 80-year-old Republican said in October the U.S. should bomb Iran with a nuclear missile to deter that country’s nuclear ambitions, according to the New York-based Jewish Daily Forward newspaper.
Sands rose 0.6 percent to $78.78 at the close in New York. The shares are little changed this year.
The company, based in Las Vegas, is working with law enforcement agencies to identify those responsible for the hacking, Ron Reese, a spokesman, said yesterday via text message. The company is using internal and external experts to assess the damage and return the sites to full operation, he said.
In addition to the Bethlehem casino, Sands’ corporate website and the sites of its resorts in Las Vegas; Macau, China; and Singapore all returned error messages yesterday. Some company e-mails weren’t functioning.
The Nevada State Gaming Control Board will work with Sands to determine the cause, according to A.G. Burnett, chairman of the regulatory body.
“The risk of these things happening is certainly increased in this day and age and we will investigate it thoroughly,” he said in an e-mail.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is aware of the situation and is “addressing it as appropriate,” according to Bridget Pappas, a spokeswoman. She wouldn’t say whether the bureau had an active investigation.
Before the site for Sands’ Bethlehem casino went down, visitors saw an image of Adelson posing next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The page included a map of the world with flames where Sands has U.S. casinos, as well as scrolling personal information about employees including e-mail addresses and social security numbers, according to the newspaper, which posted a video of the images on its site.
The site included this text: “Damn A, don’t let your tongue cut your throat. Encouraging the use of weapons of mass destruction, under any conditions, is a crime,” the newspaper reported.
Adelson was the largest individual donor to political action committees and other independent groups in the 2012 election cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org, which tracks spending. In addition to his support of Israel, he is campaigning against the spread of online gambling.
His October comments came in a panel discussion at Yeshiva University in New York. Reese later said the statements were “hyperbole,” according to the Daily Forward.
Hackers have targeted other companies in the past with cyber-attacks.
In 2012, Sony Corp. was targeted over its support for Hollywood-backed anti-piracy measures in the U.S. Congress. In late 2010, the hacker group Anonymous took credit for taking down the websites of Mastercard Inc. and Visa Inc., as revenge for the payment processors’ decision to suspend use of their networks for donations to WikiLeaks, the organization that publishes secret documents.
Adelson is the world’s 10th-wealthiest person with a $37 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.