October 25, 2012, 11:50 AM — It's been a month of crippling denial-of-service attacks on websites operated by U.S. banks and financial services firms. A terrorist organization called Al-Qassam takes credit online, but now the attacks are being blamed on Iran.
Background: Iran denies launching cyberattacks on U.S. banks
So is this just another case of cybercrime, or something entirely different? Could this be cyberwar?
Within the past month, crushing blasts of 65Gbps traffic, mainly from thousands of compromised Web servers, has targeted Bank of America, Wells Fargo, US Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Sun Trust, PNC Financial Services, Regions Financial and Capital One. The attacks have effectively cut bank customers off from online services for extended periods.
An Islamic group called the Izz ad-Din Al-Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed credit for most of the distributed denial-of-service (DoS) attacks that started Sept. 18 with Bank of America. A hacktivist group associating itself with Anonymous claimed responsibility for the DDoS against HSBC that started Oct. 18. Banks have been busy apologizing to customers for service disruptions.
PNC Financial Services CEO James Rohr, acknowledging last week on CNBC that the DDoS attacks had "really pummeled us," noted cyberattacks "really disrupt this country."
That followed U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's lengthy speech on Oct 11 before a New York business group in which he said the U.S. needs to be on guard against a "cyber Pearl Harbor." He said if attackers launched destructive attacks on America's critical infrastructure networks, the president would ask the Defense Department to respond with both cyberweapons and traditional weapons.
But respond against who, what and where?
The first round of attacks proved so severe to banks such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America that U.S. government officials are making accusations.
Iran as the source of the cyberattacks on banks "is a good possibility" said Darren Hayes, professor in computer forensics at Pace University at the Seidenberg School of Computer Science and Information Systems.