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Attacks on bank web sites increase: 249 hours offline in past six weeks

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The chart above shows the availability of major U.S. bank In an alarming demonstration of growing cyber-attacks on the world stage, U.S. banks have been particularly hard-hit by cyber attacks over the past six weeks. Major U.S. bank web sites have been offline a total of 249 hours in the past six weeks. Experts say that the heavier-than-usual outages are the result of a sustained attack that began seven months ago. The unavailability of these Web sites leads to great frustration among customers and the banks.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Literally, these banks are just in war rooms, sitting at controls trying to stop (the attacks)," bank security analyst with Gartner Group Avivah Litan says. "The frightening thing is (the attackers) are not using as much resources as they have on call. The attacks could be bigger."

In short order, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, PNC and a number of other banks suffered hours-long Web site outages.

Calling itself "Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters," a group released an anonymous statement saying it was attacking banks in sympathy with real-world protestors reacting to the anti-Islam film. "Innocence of Muslims" that had been posted online.

The group is still taunting the U.S. financial system, with notice almost daily from another bank that had to apologize for letting down its customers. American Express and Wells Fargo issued statements last week saying they suffered outages.

The biggest financial institutions in the world can't seem to stop them, even with advance notice.

None think that the group might be the work of attention-seeking teen-aged hackers, as they would likely have grown bored, or run out of resources, long ago.

National security officials said last fall that they suspected the Iranian government was behind the attacks. It seems certain that an organized group, with both a political motive and the ability to fund the operation, is to blame.

Web sites go offline for a variety of reasons, such as late-night software upgrades, for example - and some outages are to be expected, Aaron Rudger, a Keynote spokesman said.

These outages during a six-week period, which ended March 31 is significant, indicating those bank Web sites were unavailable for about two percent of the time during that stretch. The same six weeks last year, the same bank Web sites were down 140 hours.

Senior technologist at Internet infrastructure company Neustar, Rodney Joffe gave chilling advice to banks preparing for an al Qassam-style attack last fall: Prepare a sincere-sounding apology, he said.

"It goes on and on and on ... It's like they are kicking sand in someone's face, reminding people that they are there," Joffe says. "You just have to ask yourself, 'Why?' (The attackers) just seem to enjoy being able to say 'On an ongoing basis, we can make life uncomfortable for your banking industry.'"

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