Cyber Attacks On US Banks Largely Harmless
September 27, 2012

Recent Cyber Attacks On US Banks Annoying But Harmless

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

They say the bank is the safest place for your money. Though if you're a customer of Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, U.S. Bancorp or PNC, you may be worried if you've had trouble logging into your account recently. While these and several other banks suffered a barrage of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks this week, funds and account data remain safe.

Account holders reported this week having trouble accessing their accounts online. Login was slow or simply wasn't able to be completed due to a barrage of cyber attacks that aimed to take down U.S. banks.

Several media outlets have reported that a hacker group identified as the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed credit for the attacks in a post on Pastebin, an online venue where hackers often publicize their attacks.

The hacker group says the attacks are part of what they are calling "Operation Ababil." The stated goal of the attack is the forced removal of the 14-minute anti-Islamic video, "Innocence of Muslims," which portrays the prophet Mohammed in an unflattering light, from the web. The highly controversial video has sparked demonstrations, riots and violence throughout the Middle East and has raised tensions worldwide.

The ability to pull the film from the web, however, is not within the U.S. banks' scope of authority, and is protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Last week, a California judge denied a request from an actress who appeared in the film, claiming she was a victim of fraud and had suffered harm, to remove the video from YouTube.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters take their name from a Muslim holy man who fought against European forces and Jewish settlers in the Middle East during the 1920s and 1930s. The post stating the group's claims was removed from the web, but The New York Times published an excerpt that stated: "We invite all cyberspace workers to join us in this Proper Act. If America's arrogant government do not submit [sic], the attack will be large and larger and will include other evil countries like Israel, French and U.Kingdom indeed."

While the group has been clear about its issues, the attacks have been attributed to other causes. According to comments made last week by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (I - CT), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, in an interview on C-Span's "Newsmakers" program, the attacks may be a form of retaliation for Western economic sanctions against Iran.

The attacks were identified as having originated primarily in Iran.

"We absolutely have seen more activity from the Middle East, and in particular Iran has been increasingly active as they build up their cybercapabilities," the New York Times quoted George Kurz, president of computer security firm CrowdStrike, as saying. "There is also a strong activist movement underfoot which should be concerning to many large companies. The threat is real and what we are seeing now is only the tip of the iceberg."

A number of sources have said the attacks were largely unsophisticated and are not likely linked to any foreign government. The attacks were apparently designed to cause a nuisance and were not motivated by money.