Security Experts:

Britain's HSBC Recovers from Massive DDoS Attack

HSBC in UK

British bank HSBC has managed to gets its Internet and mobile banking systems back online after crippling distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack knocked systems offline on Friday.

"HSBC internet and mobile banking are now fully recovered. Thanks for your patience and again we apologise for the disruption," the bank wrote on Twitter. 

HSBC originally said that it had successfully defended the attack, but systems remained offline and inaccessible for many customers for hours on Friday.

"HSBC has suffered another high profile website outage that has left its customers in a very awkward position, especially given today is when most people in the UK get paid and have to settle bills,” Richard Kirk, SVP at AlienVault, told SecurityWeek. “HSBC claims that the attack was successfully defended and this is most likely true, to the extent that if it is a DDoS attack, then the online systems can be quickly taken offline to prevent any potential damage,” Kirk said. However this does not help its customers. Questions that need to be asked are, is a DDOS attack a network or security concern? This is an important consideration, since it will dictate what response is triggered.”

“In today’s cybersecurity landscape, all companies should expect to be targeted by attackers. While it’s essential to consider prevention strategies, it’s equally important to consider recovery and to be positioned to bounce back quickly and maintain continuity,” said Monzy Merza, chief security evangelist at Splunk. “Organizations need to have a deep understanding of their infrastructure and environment, meaning that full visibility is the key. A successful recovery plan includes visibility, analysis and automated and human-mediated response capabilities. The HSBC breach shows us that attacks are bound to happen and a well-instrumented organization can recover from even the most sophisticated attacks."

HSBC did not say who may be responsible for the attack, and so far, no public claim of responsibility from any hacktivist or other cybercriminal group has been made.

According to BBC Technology Correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones, HSBC was not the only bank hit with attacks this week.

“Source tells me there's been a wave of DDoS attacks on HSBC & other UK banks this week using "crude but disruptive" tools bought on dark web,” Cellan-Jones tweeted

“Until further details emerge it's hard to pin this down,” Jonathan Sander, VP at Lieberman Software, told SecurityWeek. “Often DDoS attacks like this are a distraction technique; bad guys hit you hard on the left so you're too busy to see them sneak in on the right. Unless the DDOS is part of a recipe to steal stuff, it's a nuisance that is more about someone flexing their muscles than doing damage.”

“The costs and technical barriers to execute a DDoS attack continue to decline,” added Dave Martin, security expert and director at NSFOCUS. “And unfortunately, this trend shows no signs of slowing.”

HSBC did not provide any technical details on the attack, but recent trends have shown an increase in the size of these attacks, along with more sophisticated, multi-vector attacks.

 

While multi-vector denial of service (DDoS) attacks have been part of the threat landscape for years, these distributed attacks against enterprise networks are increasing in frequency, according to a report from Arbor Networks, released this week. 

In November 2014, HSBC Turkey said that it suffered a cyber attack resulting in attackers accessing payment card numbers and linked account numbers, along with card expiry dates and card holder names of customers.  

Founded in 1865, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services firms.

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For more than 10 years, Mike Lennon has been closely monitoring and analyzing trends in the enterprise IT security space and the threat landscape. In his role at SecurityWeek he oversees the editorial direction of the publication and manages several leading security conferences.