September 21, 2012
In a follow-up to a story posted on the neocon website FreeBeacon.com edited by Washington Post scribe Bill Gertz, NBC reports that national security officials believe Iran is responsible for cyber attacks on the commercial websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America.
“One of those sources said the claim by hackers that the attacks were prompted by the online video mocking the Prophet Muhammad is just a cover story,” NBC reports.
The attacks arrive as the Obama administration is preparing to issue an executive order after the Lieberman-Collins Cyber-security bill failed to pass in the Senate. Obama’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said “the President is determined to do absolutely everything we can to better protect our nation against today’s cyber threats and we will do that” despite the will of the American people.
On Tuesday, a message posted on Pastebin by purported Muslim hackers took responsibility for the cyber attacks. “Muslims must do whatever is necessary to stop spreading this movie,” the message stated. “We will attack them for this insult with all we have. All the Muslim youths who are active in the Cyber world will attack to American and Zionist Web bases as much as needed such that they say that they are sorry about that insult.”
The attacks are aimed at the commercial websites of the banks and have not threatened their business operations directly. Chase and BoFA did not blame hackers for the slowness and intermittent unavailability of their customer websites.
Earlier this week, a financial services industry group, the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, warned the financial sector about the increased threat of cyber attacks. It cited “recent credible intelligence regarding the potential” for attacks.
According to NBC, senior U.S. officials state that “Iranian attacks have been the subject of intense interest by U.S. intelligence for several weeks,” although specifics are “highly classified.” Because of the level of classification, NBC explains, the “officials refused to provide or confirm any specifics on these attacks.”
Gertz’s website broke the story on the Pentagon report. “Iran’s cyber aggression should be viewed as a component, alongside efforts like support for terrorism, to the larger covert war Tehran is waging against the west,” the website reported. U.S. government officialdom did not deny the story when asked about it by NBC.
Frank Cilluffo, who was Special Assistant to the President for Homeland Security under President Bush, testified before Congress on Thursday that “we were waiting for something like this from Iran.”
Cilluffo told the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security that “the government of Iran and its terrorist proxies are serious concerns in the cyber context. What Iran may lack in capability, it makes up for in intent. They do not need highly sophisticated capabilities – just intent and cash – as there exists an arms bazaar of cyber weapons, allowing Iran to buy or rent the tools they need or seek.”
In May 2011, the Pentagon said that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,”a military official told the Wall Street Journal.
“Recent attacks on the Pentagon’s own systems – as well as the sabotaging of Iran’s nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm – have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks,” the Journal wrote.
In June, it was confirmed that the Obama administration had “ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program,” according to the New York Times.
Olympic Games, the code-name for a secret program developed during the Bush administration, was responsible for Stuxnet, a highly sophisticated malware targeting Iranian nuclear facilities.
In addition to Stuxnet, Iran has suffered attacks by a computer virus named Stars.
Earlier this month it was revealed that the cyber war waged against Iran by the United States and Israel is far more extensive than originally thought. “The latest disclosures follow forensic analysis by Symantec and the Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab of two command and control servers used by a sophisticated espionage worm named Flame, which was discovered by Iran this year stealing data from its computers,” The Guardian reported.
Earlier this week, the BBC reported Flame is likely part of a larger “family” of malware that has affected thousands of computers in Iran and several other Middle Eastern countries.