Iran behind bank cyberattacks, U.S. government officials say

Iran behind bank cyberattacks, U.S. government officials say

Summary: A former government official says the U.S. believes Iran was behind a spate of cyberattacks on U.S. banks, despite claims from a hacking group that it was behind the attempted hacks.


U.S. government officials are reportedly pointing the finger at Iran for a spate of cyberattacks and hacking attempts on U.S. banks, according to a report by The New York Times.

A number of banks, including HSBC, Citigroup, and Bank of America, have in recent months suffered distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which have crippled Web sites and made it nigh on impossible for banking users to access their online accounts. A group called "Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters" claimed responsibility for the attacks, but no data was taken and customer funds remained intact.

According to a former U.S. official with the State and Commerce departments, it is believed that Tehran was actually behind the attacks.

"There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks," said former U.S. official James A. Lewis, now a computer security expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

U.S. intelligence officials say that Iran is waging the attacks in retaliation for Western economic sanctions, but also following the thought-to-be state-sponsored malware attacks -- including Flame, Duqu, and Stuxnet -- that hit Iranian nuclear facilities over the past couple of years. 

The amount of data that flooded U.S. banks was "multiple times" the amount that Estonia suffered when it was cyber-attacked more than five years ago. It's understood that the attackers users data centers rather than individual computer-based botnets to attack the banks, and hijacked clouds rather than individual machines. 

Exactly how the attackers are hijacking data centers "is still a mystery," the Times noted, but warned that the hackers were using encrypted DDoS attacks by flooding servers with encryption requests, rather than ordinary data, to slow down networks with fewer requests.

The entire state of Estonia was knocked offline for weeks after Russia pummelled the country with vast amounts of data in order to overload the country's systems back in 2007. Russia never openly or directly admitted to the attack, but many still believe the Russian government was behind the aggression.

The hackers said that they had no intention of stopping their attacks against U.S. banks, claiming "none of the U.S. banks will be safe." 

(via The New York Times)

Topics: Security, Banking, Networking

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  • It's plausible

    Neither you nor I have any way of proving or disproving the allegation, but it makes sense for authoritarian governments to use front organizations of "patriotic hackers" to harass supposed enemies.
    John L. Ries
    • or it's laughable...

      So from your comments, can one deduct that any other country who hacks it's "supposed" enemy via proxy hackers is authoritarian? And John, can you identify the "supposed enemies" if you will. I don't think Iran would call hacking their nuclear servers a "harrassment"... We either have a blind side or choose to being naive!
  • A welcome change from shooting wars

    Mind you, I'm not overly pleased to see cyberwarfare going on, either, but the physical damage to infrastructure, maiming of innocent parties, and loss of life is almost infinitely lower than physical wars like Afghanistan. And, since the West has the highest percentage of "trained cyberwarriros" (aka "gamers") already, it shouldn't be that hard to prepare a defense-in-depth - if only the banks weren't using software that is decades out-of-date. Personally, I *will not* do online banking. I'm an I.T. professional, and I am aghast at the antiquity of some of the banking interfaces I have seen.
  • I'm not so sure

    I read the NY Times article and it's actually so vague about who's charging what that it seems more like a press release by one of those useless DC area cyber-security government contractors. The only people quoted are outside of government.
  • What have we learned?

    Don't put your money en a bank. Even a sock is more secure to keep it safe.
  • Our Government is Retarded.

    You know I see stupid things like this posted everyday. Does our government really think we're that ignorant. I mean, I guess for a good 65% of stupid Americans yes...this is horrible news to hear that Iran is disrupting our already broken economic system! Please. Let's all pull our head's out of our @#$es and realize that our economy is funded by crime, violence, and war...things that economies should not be based upon. Let alone the debt we incur for using our not-so federal dollar bills. What a crock. How about we stop starting wars and inflating a currency that doesn't even have value. I'm ready for the collapse so we can just break off into our own smaller governments again and actually fix the things we've broken in the past few centuries. Greedy banking bastards with their fake monopoly money. Eventually it has to all go back into the box.