Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney believed Iran was the biggest national security threat facing America. Now, a second round of suspected Iranian cyber attacks against U.S. banks is under way, and the Obama administration is seemingly doing nothing about it.
The New York Times’ Bits Blog reported that the first wave of “denial of service” attacks in September was organized by an Iranian group of hackers who call themselves Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters. The hackers have claimed responsibility for this second wave of attacks in an online post the first week of January, saying it had “resumed Operation Ababil and that, over the last several weeks, it had focused on nine banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, BB&T, Suntrust and Regions Financial,” according to the Bits post.
“In a denial of service attack, hackers bombard a site with traffic until it collapses under the load,” The Times blogger explained.
Three of the targeted banks have experienced unusually high traffic on their websites, and PNC even warned customers about the delays, then issued a statement saying no customer data or information had been compromised.
The group claims the attacks are in retaliation for an online video mocking the prophet Muhammad, demanding the video be removed from the Internet. However, the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill Gertz quoted a forensic cyber specialist as saying the attacks seemed more like “‘state-sponsored action,’ meaning backed by the Tehran regime. … Iranian officials have been quoted in state-run press accounts as promising to conduct cyber attacks against the United States and other western states in retaliation for cyber attacks against Iran’s nuclear program.”
Many U.S. government and intelligence agencies oversee cyber attacks on the country. But Gertz questioned whether the Obama administration is doing enough to address the Iranian attack.
The White House is in charge of directing any counterattacks on nation-states and so far has refused to authorize aggressive action, such as retaliatory counter cyber attacks. The administration appears to be treating the Iranian cyber attacks as a law enforcement matter rather than covert warfare.