Poker Bros anti-bot feature is security theatre

Jon Pill
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Posted on: January 25, 2021 2:13 pm EST

Poker Bros, the controversial poker club app, launched a new anti-bot feature yesterday. They tweeted the announcement with the caption: “Say goodbye to BOTS with our new feature! Our “Photo Rotation Verification” feature, gives game creators a new powerful tool to stop bots from sitting at their tables.”

The feature works by giving players a simple test. The app presents a picture and a slider. By moving the slider, the player can rotate the picture. The player has fifteen seconds to get the picture right-side-up from its initial canted position.

This is a simple and ingenious anti-bot feature and one which will give many players plenty of confidence in their tables. But it’s not clear how justified that confidence will actually be.

The new feature can be activated by the creators of tables. On tables where this is active, the players will have to pass the Photo Rotation Verification test before taking a seat. Failing the test three times will result in being blocked.

They may also be required to complete the test at random during play. In this latter case, failing the test will not result in an immediate block. Instead, it will flag the account to “Game Integrity Bros.” They will look into the matter further and take any relevant action against the player if they dig up signs of foul play.

Will it work?

Like many security features, the goal of a test like the Photo Rotation Verification is partially genuine security concerns and partially just security theatre. Every player who does the test will feel a little more reassured that their table is safe. And so the customer is kept relatively docile.

By reminding potential perps that security teams exist, it may also go some way to dissuading cheats from using the Poker Bros platform for their dirty dealings.

As an anti-bot measure, it seems likely it does have some limited direct prophylactic effect. But there is nothing to prevent a bot farmer from completing the test for the robot then sitting back to eat pickles and swill vodka until the next test comes up.

It also doesn’t do anything to prevent humans players who are using real-time assistants. RTAs come in a number of shapes, sizes, and forms. None of which are stopped by a test like this. In fact, bots themselves can be used as RTAs with the player simply clicking the buttons that the bot tells them to.

The Photo Rotation Verification is therefore of more use as a marketing gimmick than as a security guard. It provides reassurance without significantly improving security.

That said, anyone still using Poker Bros after the headlines they had throughout 2020 is a lot braver when it comes to keeping their money secure.

Featured image source: screen capture