Senator warns banks of cyberattack risk, Chase Bank targeted within minutes

Whether connected or not, the timing was ironic.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Hackers often portray a sense of humor, and yesterday's exercises were no exception.

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On Tuesday, two hearings related to cybersecurity took place in the United States. Intelligence officials spoke on the annual "worldwide threat" briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee, and head of the U.S. military's Cyber Command Army General Keith Alexander spoke before the Senate Armed Services committee.

Alexander discussed the threat posed by digital warfare against banks and private firms, mentioning that the rate of attacks against these tempting targets -- often full of financial information and potentially the account details of customers -- is getting worse, predicting that this threat will do nothing but rise over the next year.

"We've seen the attacks on Wall Street over the last six months grow significantly," he said, mentioning that there were over 160 disruptive attacks on banks within that time frame, according to the Washington Post. This number seems likely to rise.

As if in silent agreement, hackers -- potentially with a morbid sense of humor -- decided to attack Chase Bank's website within minutes of the speech, and this was later confirmed by the bank to CNBC. It is unknown whether the cyberattack was connected, but either way, the timing was ironic.

The attack itself was, predictably, a denial-of-service (DoS) attack, although it is unclear whether any financial or account data has been compromised or stolen.

The attack itself may have been simple and swiftly executed, but it does outline the fact that hackers -- whether hired professionals or "script kiddies" relying on community support to execute attacks including distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) against particular targets -- have a strong hand, and governments are yet to catch up.

Alexander also mentioned that the military had begun adding new recruits to its "cyber warrior" team in an attempt to protect core services and infrastructure. Divided into three sectors, the new teams comprise of a "Cyber National Mission force" that focuses on the deployment of teams against national level and potentially state-sponsored threats, a Cyber Combat Mission force which concentrates on operations, and a Cyber Protection force that keeps an eye on the military's own networks.

It may be a case of too little, too late. However, Alexander hopes that 13 of the new teams will be in place as early as this September, and will contain thousands of military and civilian personnel. In addition, the remaining cyber warrior teams will be fully operational by the end of 2015. However, the general also warned that budget cuts were likely to hamper the United States' attempts at protecting itself from digital threats. Considering the almost condescending attack on Morgan Banks' website, this is something that the country can ill afford.

Perhaps the hackers did Alexander a favor by bringing light to the issue, and Congressional spats will be resolved more quickly to give the teams the budget they require.

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