Muslim hacktivists are apparently following through on their promise to disrupt a number of financial services websites, with U.S. Bank being the most recent target.
A spokeswoman for U.S. Bancorp, which operates U.S. Bank, confirmed that its site had been attacked Wednesday. "The attacks yesterday caused intermittent delays for some consumers visiting our website, but neither our website nor our mobile application were offline at any time. In addition, we can assure customers that their data and funds are secure," she said.
She also emphasized that while website access was intermittent, no customer data or funds had been compromised. "These issues are related to unusual and coordinated high traffic volume designed to slow down the system--similar to what other banks have experienced in the past week. We are working closely with federal law enforcement officials to address the issue," she said.
Security researcher Atif Mushtaq at FireEye, told PC Advisor that the U.S. Bank website had been subjected to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack involving hundreds of thousands of computers.
The attack against U.S. Bank follows an apparent, similar attack Tuesday against Wells Fargo, which likewise apologized via Twitter to its customers. "We apologize to customers who may be experiencing limited access to @wellsfargo.com & online banking. We are working to quickly ... resolve this issue. Customers can still access their accounts through our ATMs, stores, and by phone," it said.
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By Thursday, Wells Fargo appeared to have resolved any website disruption issues. "Customers can access their accounts through the online and mobile channels. We appreciate our customers’ patience and apologize for any inconvenience," said spokeswoman Sara Hawkins via email. But she declined to answer questions about whether the bank had ascribed the slowdown to an external attack, and if so, where the attack traffic originated.
But a hacktivist group calling itself the "Cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam" announced Tuesday via a now-deleted Pastebin post that it would be attacking the two websites, as part of its ongoing "Operation Ababil," which began last week with attacks against both the Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase websites, both of which experienced periodic outages. According to the hacktivist group, the attacks are in retaliation for the release of the Innocence of Muslims film that mocks the founder of Islam, and which has triggered numerous riots across the Middle East.
In the group's Tuesday Pastebin, it promised to "attack for 8 hours daily, starting at 2:30 PM GMT," the Wells Fargo website Tuesday, the U.S. Bank website Wednesday, and the PNC Financial Services group website Thursday, and suggested that customers attempt to perform any required website banking outside those hours. The hacktivist group also threatened that "if America's arrogant government do not submit"--it didn't define what that means--it will extend its attacks to "other evil countries" such as Israel, France, and the United Kingdom.
While the Cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam group has taken credit for the recent attacks against banks, former U.S. government officials, speaking anonymously, have blamed the Iranian government for the attacks, saying that similar DDoS attacks have been against U.S. financial institutions' websites for the past year by Iran. Likewise, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, has also blamed Iran for the most recent attacks, though as yet offered no evidence to substantiate that claim.
In response to that criticism, a senior Iranian official this week strongly denied that his government had anything to do with the recent banking website attacks, or any attacks against U.S. financial institutions, and instead suggested that the allegations were meant to provide justification for the United States having launched its own online attacks against Iran.
Iranian government backing or no, the Cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam apparently isn't the only organization that's taken to targeting websites in retaliation for Innocence of Muslims. The Pakistan Cyber Army also said that it's begun an online protest campaign, with member Sizzling Soul announcing Sunday via Pastebin that he'd defaced over 80 websites to date. While the list includes numerous small businesses, Sizzling Soul also claims to have defaced websites run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bank of America, and New York Stock Exchange, as well as websites for Angry Birds and Persia Bank in London. As of late Thursday morning, the Persia Bank website remained defaced with Pakistan Cyber Army and Sizzling Soul graphics, as well as a reprint of a Pastebin post from Sizzling Soul that reads in part: "You Are Provoking The Anger Of PeaceFull Muslims! / Stop This / Otherwise You WOn't Be Able To Stop Us."
On a similar note, hacktivist Rude Thunder Saturday claimed via Pastebin to have hacked 104 websites, including a British home and garden website, as well as numerous betting and poker-related sites, "to share our message." As the choice of targets, per the hacktivist norm, reads like a random list of websites, rather than a concentrated attack against financial services companies--as in the case of the Cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam--it suggests that the Pakistan Cyber Army and Rude Thunder are likely using automated vulnerability testing tools to search for, and exploit, any website servers running software with known vulnerabilities.