Has Norsk Tipping been hacked, or is there a simpler explanation?

Last week, I was contacted by a man called Jonathan, asking me whether I would be interested in writing a post, linking to a client of his. Though this is not something I do, my interest was piqued by something in his wording, and I wrote back, asking for some details. The details came shortly, giving me a link to an article published at the site CasinoMagasinet.com at a date not specified in the article (a little digging showed it to have been published on November 19th, 2013). The article, entitled “NORSK TIPPING SENDER KUNDER TIL UTENLANDSKE SPILLESELSKAP!”, which translates to “Norsk Tipping are sending their customers to offshore betting companies. I made a print to PDF of the article (in Norwegian), which you can find here.

The article claims that Norsk Tipping has either changed their policies on the use of offshore betting companies, or that they have been hacked. They also claim that the hack was performed by someone who is obviously an amateur, and offers as proof of this the layout and design of the site to which they claim Norsk Tipping link. Checking for myself, I was unable to verify the details in the article. However, I wasn’t about to call foul just yet. I checked the WayBack Machine, where I found a cached version which did verify the details in the article. The cached version can be found here.

My next step was to see if the link in question could be found anywhere else on their site. A simple search of “spillemidlene.no Norsk Tipping” led me to another page that contains the same link. I have made a PDF print of this, too, which can be found here.

Now, the article at CasinoMagasinet claims that there are only two options: either Norsk Tipping has changed their policies, or they have been hacked. This is a black-or-white-fallacy, as there is another, simpler explanation. On a hunch, I checked whois-records. It is true that there is a domain called spillemidlene.no, however, there is also one called spillemidler.no. The latter is registered to the Norwegian Ministry of Culture. For future record, I have made PDF prints of the whois records, which you can find here and here. The simpler explanation, then, is that someone at Norsk Tipping has miswritten the URL, and that this has not been noticed. These things happen. Another possibility was offered when I contacted Norsk Tipping for a comment. Their head of communications, Arve Sjølstad had this to say:

We are aware of the issue, and we are in a dialogue with the Ministry of Culture, who owns the domain spillemidlene.no. Our site has not been hacked, but we are sorry that the domain is being misused to promote overseas gambling sites, instead of the intention the domain originally was created to promote: the surplus from Norsk Tipping and the billions that the company generates each fund thousands of projects within culture, sports and humanitarian causes in Norway. We are currently removing all links to spillemidlene.no. We hope to have the original site back in place soon.

Occam’s razor teaches us that “among competing hypotheses, the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected”. These last two hypotheses are the simplest ones. The assertion that Norsk Tipping has changed their policies is ludicrous, and the claim that they have been hacked makes a number of assumptions, not the least of which is how that could have happened without them noticing for over three years. In fact, the only reason why my assumption was not the explanation offered by Norsk Tipping, is that I could find no suggestion that this was, in fact, the case.

Postscripts notwithstanding, this is where I had planned to leave this blog post. I was happy with my conclusions, and felt that the claims made by CasinoMagasinet had been throughly refuted. Then, I was contacted by Åsmund Berge, a Senior Adviser at the Ministry of Culture. We talked, and here is what he had to say:

Originally, we had registered both spillemidler.no and spillemidlene.no. Through a series of unfortunate errors made by neither Norsk Tipping nor The Ministry of Culture, the latter of these registrations was terminated, allowing that domain to be registered by a third party. We are working with UNINETT Norid, the registrar for Norwegian domain names, to resolve this matter.

That, however is beside the point. CasinoMagasinet obviously has an agenda; to challenge the monopoly of Norsk Tipping. That is a valid agenda, whether you agree with it or not, but the way they go about it is disingenuous. They make unsubstantiated claims, based on what they see, and the way they want to interpret those findings. However, as I have shown, the findings are less than unambiguous, and as the accusor, the burden of proof lies with CasinoMagasinet.

All pages visited December 13th, 2013. This .zip-file contains the full pages as they appeared on that day.

Caveat lector: I was offered a monetary compensation to write an article linking to the article at CasinoMagasinet. I turned down that offer.





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