Sophisticated hacking attacks on U.S. banks in recent months have distinctive qualities that are leading investigators to believe another nation may be behind the assault. The likely suspect is Iran, which officials believe may be trying to even the score for American hacking of its nuclear program.
At least nine U.S. financial institutions have been hit since September; more attacks are expected. And part of what makes them suspicious is that they seem calculated not to steal account data or money, but instead to disrupt the banking system.
"There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks," former Commerce and State Department official James A. Lewis tells The New York Times, which reported the story Wednesday. Lewis is a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The distributed denial of service attacks, which seek to overload an online system's ability to respond to requests, targeted Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, BB&T, HSBC, and Fifth Third Bank, the Times reports.
NPR's Tom Gjelten filed a Newscast report in which he explained more about the group behind the attacks:
"A group calling itself the al-Qassam cyber fighters has taken credit for the attacks, saying they're protesting the anti-Islam video posted on YouTube a few months ago. But the group could be just a front. In its latest posting, the group says: 'Rulers and officials of American banks must expect our massive attacks! From now on, none will be safe.'"
Tom will discuss the case on All Things Considered this afternoon. We'll update this post with more information as it comes in.