New Round of Cyber Attacks on Banks

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Cyber Attacks

Source: web

The opening lines of the latest message from Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters Group is infuriating for many. Immediately going into expressions of sympathy for the “families of the schoolchildren victimized by the horrible happening of Sandy Hook Elementary school”, the group then goes into its latest threats that it’s already carrying out,

It’s very clear that a system which its rulers and capitalists are the owners of weaponry big companies never care about occurrence of these events. The past week’s attacks, showed our ability in doing wideness attacks so efficiently and of course this is not all of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam’s ability.

The group assures anyone reading, via it’s preferred method of communication on a hacker message board that the attacks will continue until “insults to the prophet of mercy and removing the offensive film” is rectified to the group’s satisfaction. It’s a low blow, to be sure, but it’s successfully hit several banks, yet again, this week. And, as predicted, the five major U.S. banks are now scrambling to lessen the damage of the denial of service attacks.

The latest attacks have hit Bank of America Corp., SunTrust, Inc., JPMorgan Chase, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo and PNC Financial Services Group. This, according to at least two executives at companies providing security to some of the targeted banks, asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss their clients publicly and didn’t want those clients to become targets of future assaults. On Thursday, it was PNC that was under attack.

This is the same group that claimed responsibility for a round of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that began in September and continued well into October. They overwhelmed bank websites with massive internet traffic, which made it difficult, if not impossible for customers to access their bank and credit card accounts.

The purpose of it is to try to disrupt or stop online banking access,

said Bill Nelson, president of the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which disseminates cyber threat information to the financial services industry.

There are some outages occasionally, but it hasn’t prevented customers from transacting business.

The group continues to demand the YouTube video that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad and that offends some Muslims be removed. What’s most alarming with this round of attacks is that the group is no longer targeting just one bank at a time, but instead, is hitting multiple targets on a daily basis. The attacks are the same, in which they harness massive commercial servers that overload bank websites and attack security devices, including firewalls.

Meanwhile, PNC posted a statement on its website stating it was aware of the cyber threat and acknowledged it could “make it difficult for our customers to log onto online banking. Please be assured that PNC’s website is protected by sophisticated encryption strategies that shield customer information and accounts,” the statement reads.

We have no information regarding timing, duration or intensity of this potential threat.

At the same time, Wells Fargo also was experiencing what it described as “an unusually high volume of traffic, creating slow or intermittent access for some customers”. An email went out to Wells Fargo customers late Thursday morning, which read, in part,

The vast majority of customers are not impacted, but for those who are, we encourage them to access their accounts through our stores, ATMs or by phone as we work to resolve the issue.

Of course, that didn’t bode well for many, especially considering the blizzard like conditions through much of the midwest.

As for the rest of the banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan, they opted for a “no comment” stance.

Many are wondering why it’s so difficult to prevent these attacks or at least harness them when they begin. That’s explained by the fact the so-called “signatures” are changing every seven to ten minutes, meaning there’s a live person who’s on the other end, closely monitoring the attacks, and who can change course if security measures begin closing in. This is one reason these types of attacks are preferred by ‘hactivists’. The attacks are easy, too, and in fact, are easily purchased on the black market online.

There are concerns, though, that new threats promised “in the spring” are concerning federal security analysts and law enforcement. These threats include assurances of stealing consumers money from their accounts and even their credit cards. If this occurs, the results could be catastrophic. Not only that, but the FBI warned in 2011 that these denial of service attacks were likely going to increase to “deflect attention from fraudulent wire transfers from compromised bank accounts”.

The fact the group stooped to mentioning last week’s deadly school shooting suggests it’s very much plugged into U.S. events, adding a new level of anger for many Americans.

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About Author

David is a CPA and has spent the past decade as a financial adviser helping clients meet their fiscal objectives. With an appreciation for journalism, he has spent the past few years overseeing several financial columns as well as writing two previous finance blogs. He resides on the East Coast with his wife and two sons and has guided many through the recent recession while providing a no-nonsense approach to spending and saving.


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