American banks have had a tough week. After facing a wave of cyber attacks that threatened to knock vital websites offline, it’s still not clear who was responsible.
According to reports, some of the United States’ biggest financial institutions — including Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Bancorp — were hit by a series of cyber attacks last week. These were distributed denial of service (or DDoS) attacks, meaning they used a remote network of infected computers to drive huge amounts of web traffic to banking websites.
DDoS attacks have been used in the past by groups like Anonymous because they are often effective in overwhelming a targeted site’s servers and taking that site offline for hours at a time.
For the major banks being targeted in this most recent series of attacks, having a website fail is devastating. Customers of those banks often depend on constant access to their websites.
The attacks are being taken very seriously. One U.S. official indicated that hacks of major financial institutions are considered a worst-case scenario by the National Security Agency, which is why meetings were held at the White House last week to discuss how to trace the attacks to their source.
Right now, that source remains unknown. However, given the complexity of the attacks it’s unlikely a single hacker working in their basement was responsible. Instead, it could be that a large organization of hackers working with the financial backing of a hostile nation led the hacking campaign.
At one point it was suggested that Muslim hackers carried out the attacks as a way to protest last week’s “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video. However, security expert Mike Smith says that’s a “false flag” designed to distract people from more likely culprits.
Thankfully, it appears no customer data has been lost. However, that could change if the attacks continue.