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Iran Tied to DDoS Attacks Against U.S. Banks, Report

According to a report from the New York Times, Iran is to blame for a wave of DDoS attacks against several U.S. banks this summer. This nation-state attack was previously thought to be the work of a small band of hackers, but government officials and security researchers are now voicing their doubts.

“There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks,” James A. Lewis, a former official in the State and Commerce Departments and a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told the Times.

Bank DDoS AttacksLewis said that traffic monitoring shows the overall volume directed at our nation’s banks to be “multiple times” more than what Russia directed at Estonia in 2007 – routinely thought to be the first official nation-state attack.

The DDoS wave started towards the end of the summer last year, picking-up pace in October. None of the nation’s financial giants were exempt, as traffic flooded the websites maintained by Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, and Fifth Third Bank.

Security firm Radware reported on research in October that the criminals thought to be behind the attack, a group calling itself Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters, were using hijacked data center accounts to initiate the DDoS, and not a massive botnet. At the same time, the attack is all malicous traffic. No customer accounts have been compromised. However, intelligence officials dismiss the claims of the phantom group, and instead say it is simply a cover for Iranian government.

The only downside to the Times’ report is that while officials were quick to blame Iran for the DDoS attacks, they could offer no proof that conclusively ties the nation to the criminal acts. The most anyone can speculate is that Iran is reacting to the development and deployment of Stuxnet and its sister malware strains (Flame and Duqu) by the U.S.

Cover or not, the group wrote on New Year’s Day that no American bank would be safe from them.

“Rulers and officials of American banks must expect our massive attacks! From now on, none of the U.S. banks will be safe from our attacks.”

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.