US banks attacked by enigmatic cyber assailants

The websites of US banks have under heavy digital attack for more than a week by unknown cyber assailants.

Indeed, at least half a dozen banks – including the Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup – have witnessed significant traffic surges and sporadic disruptions. 

Although it remains unclear who the perpetrators are, security expert Mike Smith of Akami says he is skeptical of claims of responsibility purportedly made by Islamists angry at an anti-Muslim movie filmed in the United States. 

According to Smith, the widely-circulated claims may in fact be an attempt to deflect suspicion away from the actual culprits. 

“In the intelligence world, we call that a ‘false flag. The attack traffic is fairly homogeneous. It’s not this wide cornucopia of attacks that’s coming at you that you see with a hacktivist attack,” he explained.

”There are the obvious suspects. The people who have done this previously would be organized crime, and it could be nation-state sponsored. I’m not willing to rule those out just yet, but I’m not willing to say its definitely one of those.”

Meanwhile, US Senator Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, says he believes the attacks were executed by the Iranian Quds Force in retaliation for tightening economic sanctions designed to curtail Teheran’s nuclear ambitions. 

“I don’t believe these were just hackers who were skilled enough… to cause a disruption of the websites … of Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase,” Lieberman told C-SPAN.

“I think this was done by Iran and the Quds Force, which has its own developing cyber attack capacity. And I believe it was in response to the increasingly strong economic sanctions that the United States and our European allies have put on Iranian financial institutions.”

Tehran has thus far denied involvement in the bank attacks. Gholam Reza Jalali, head of Iran’s Civil Defense Organization, told the government-controlled FARS news that “Iran has not hacked the US  banks.”

Fortunately, the online attacks appear to be slowing, with Doug Johnson of  the American Bankers Association telling the AP the disruptions were “tapering off” as of early Friday evening.