Morning Jolt – January 10, 2013
By Jim Geraghty
Trouble with Your Bank’s Web Site? Blame Iran.
So . . . we’re at cyber-war with Iran. Or at least they’re at cyber-war with us.
The attackers hit one American bank after the next. As in so many previous attacks, dozens of online banking sites slowed, hiccupped or ground to a halt before recovering several minutes later.
But there was something disturbingly different about the wave of online attacks on American banks in recent weeks. Security researchers say that instead of exploiting individual computers, the attackers engineered networks of computers in data centers, transforming the online equivalent of a few yapping Chihuahuas into a pack of fire-breathing Godzillas.
The skill required to carry out attacks on this scale has convinced United States government officials and security researchers that they are the work of Iran, most likely in retaliation for economic sanctions and online attacks by the United States.
“There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks,” said James A. Lewis, a former official in the State and Commerce Departments and a computer security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Mr. Lewis said the amount of traffic flooding American banking sites was “multiple times” the amount that Russia directed at Estonia in a monthlong online assault in 2007 that nearly crippled the Baltic nation.
A bit more detail on the tech behind the attacks:
The malware turns infected servers into what researchers call “bRobots.” Funny as the name might be, bRobots are serious business. A hacked data center filled with bRobots gives the attackers enough firepower to take down even the largest websites. As the Timesreported, one bank with a substantial 40 gigabit Internet service was easily knocked offline, and others reported DDoS traffic peaks of up to 70 gigabits.
On Tuesday, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters published a new post on Pastebin in which they said the attacks will continue. They offered a complex set of equations related to the current views and likes of Innocence of Muslims and wrote that the reasoning in allowing the video to remain on the web was “the result of direct role of Satan and evil shadow in Zionism spirit and approach of thinking.”
As of Wednesday morning, the top four sites on “outage watch” at Site Down were Bank of America, Citibank, Capital One and Fifth Third Bank.