Iranian hackers target Bank of America, JPMorgan, Citi

Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:41pm EDT
 
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By Jim Finkle and Rick Rothacker

(Reuters) - Iranian hackers have repeatedly attacked Bank of America Corp, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Citigroup Inc over the past year as part of a broad cyber campaign targeting the United States, according to people familiar with the situation.

The attacks, which began in late 2011 and escalated this year, have primarily been "denial of service" campaigns that disrupted the banks' websites and corporate networks by overwhelming them with incoming web traffic, said the sources.

They said there was evidence suggesting the hackers targeted the three banks in retaliation for their enforcement of Western economic sanctions against Iran. Whether the hackers have been able to inflict more serious damage on computer networks or steal critical data is not yet known.

Iran has beefed up its cyber capabilities after its nuclear program was damaged in 2010 by the Stuxnet virus, widely believed to have been developed by the United States. Tehran has publicly advertised its intentions to build a cyber army and encouraged private citizens to hack against Western countries.

The attacks on the three largest U.S. banks originated in Iran, but it is not clear if they were launched by the state, groups working on behalf of the government, or "patriotic" citizens, according to the sources, who requested anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

The hackers also targeted other U.S. companies, the sources said, without giving specifics. They said the attacks shed new light on the potential for Iran to lash out at Western nations' information networks.

"Most people didn't take Iran seriously. Now most people are taking them very seriously," said one of the sources, referring to Iran's cyber capabilities.

Iranian officials were not available to comment. Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup declined to comment, as did officials with the Pentagon, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency and Secret Service.   Continued...

 
A Bank of America customer uses an ATM in Charlotte, North Carolina April 18, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane