One of the most popular poker blogs on the planet, Paul "Dr. Pauly" McGuire's Tao of Poker site, was hacked last Friday by an as-yet-unidentified affiliate of Absolute Poker. For a short period of time late on Thursday, visitors to the site (including yours truly), were confronted with a presumably empty blog, replaced soon after by a full-screen banner ad that popped into place, redirecting visitors via an affiliate link to a sign-up page for Absolute Poker.
The attack on Pauly's site impacted his personal life as well, forcing him to cut short a trip to Amsterdam (with fellow poker blogger Change100) to deal with the theft. While the nature of the hacking was evident to all visitors to Pauly's site, Pauly affirmed the nature of the thief's identity by posting the signature i.d. code attached to the banner --- "a_77a_21497b_3321" --- which, as with all affiliate banners, is tracked to an individual Absolute Poker affiliate.
Compounding the matter is that Absolute Poker was made aware of the theft on Friday, and chose not to respond to Pauly's inquiries for over 48 hours. It was not until Pauly issued a call for a boycott against Absolute Poker, and complaints began to arrive at Absolute from multiple sources, that Absolute seems to have deemed the matter important enough to be concerned. As of this writing Pauly has restored his own content to the blog, but Absolute has not yet identified their affiliate thief, a must-do if Absolute wishes to retain a claim of integrity and professionalism in the matter.
It is important to note that affiliates are not allowed to break the law in order to obtain business referrals, as this one has done; it's a standard point of all business-referral contracts, far and beyond the online poker world. As such, Absolute could declare the affiliate contract in question to be null and void, and identify the hacker/thief without fear of further legal consequence, whereas if they continue to shield the hacker's identity, then Dr. Pauly has the grounds for continuing action in the matter against Absolute.
It is also vital that Absolute not be allowed to claim that it has killed or voided the affiliate account in question, and then to simply transfer that account into a new name and i.d. number, and continue on as before. While Pauly himself has issued a followup, noting that Absolute Poker has now responded to the flux of bad publicity, your blogger notes that without complete and total disclosure, the financial damages suffered by Pauly are likely to remain uncompensated. Pauly has asked that the boycott be placed on temporary hold pending the results of his immediate discussions with Absolute, and so we won't actually call for the boycott here. We'll instead note that there's not much of a reason for you to sign up with Absolute at the present time.
Absolute Poker likely had no inkling that the affiliate in question was willing to hack Pauly's site in an effort to steal some referral dollars. Now that they do know, it's imperative that they make at least one public sweep of the house-cleaning broom.
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Update: Pauly called off the dogs on Absolute in a followup post. We do hope that Absolute took proper steps and really did dump that affiliate theif, rather than making noises just meant to appease outraged bloggers. As mentioned in the comments section over at Pauly's blog, your scribe noticed that the landing page for the thief remained operational, and it still does so, several days after the fact.
Here's a non-linked link, in case you'd like to see for yourself:
The "21497" seems to be the unique identifier attached to the affiliate itself, based upon my examination of other Absolute banner ads.