The U.S. financial industry has been victimized by a series of cyberattacks, which the Middle Eastern hacktivist group Izz al-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters has claimed credit for. Shortly after an incident involving Bank of America's website, the group issued a warning that more would be coming. Although the source of the disruptions is still under some debate, a new series of website problems has confirmed the threat of more attacks.
Both U.S. Bank and PNC have experienced website disruptions seemingly in relation to the earlier distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against other financial institutions, The Associated Press reported. Tom Joyce, a spokesperson for U.S. Bank, told AP that most of the organizations' operations were still up and running. However, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has increased its alert level from "elevated" to "high" due to the possibility of more severe cyberattacks.
Although the current wave of threats appears to only disrupt websites through DDoS attacks, security experts noted that it is common for cybercriminals to use such methods as distractions, leading to data security risks while technology officials are busy restoring web service.
DDoS threats are a commonly used by cybercriminals to cause performance issues or shut down websites entirely. Normally, these attacks are conducted using botnets – large networks of computers infected with malware. CSO magazine columnist Antone Gonsalves reported on a trend that is unique to the recent incidents. It appears that these cybercriminals are using volunteers to make their impact larger.
"Participants go to either one of two file-sharing sites and download a program written in a scripting language," Gonsalves wrote. "Once the program is running, a person only has to click on a 'start attack' button to send continuous requests to the target's website."
The simplicity of DDoS attacks has made them a commonly deployed tactic among cybercriminals, since they don't have to invest in highly sophisticated technology to cause widespread disruptions. Large organizations typically have security precautions in place that limit the effectiveness of these attacks. As Gonsalves noted, it would take hundreds of thousands of computers to make a dent in most large banks' web services. However, the use of volunteers makes it more difficult to prevent disruptions because it is harder to distinguish DDoS traffic from legitimate website visitors.
Data Security News from SimplySecurity.com by Trend Micro