Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Mystery surrounds cyberattacks on U.S. banks

U.S. banks have been buffeted by more than a week of powerful cyberattacks, but the mystery surrounding their perpetrators lingers.

One expert said Friday that he was suspicious of claims of responsibility purportedly made by Islamists angry at an anti-Muslim movie made in the United States, explaining that the widely circulated Internet postings might have been an attempt to deflect attention from the true culprit.

"In the intelligence world, we call that a 'false flag,' " said Mike Smith, whose Web security company, Akamai, has helped analyze some of the attacks.

The postings, published to the Web earlier this month, suggested that an obscure Islamist group had taken revenge on American financial institutions for Innocence of Muslims, a low-budget film made in the United States that ridicules Muhammad, revered by Muslims as the last of God's prophets.

Since then at least half a dozen banks — including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup — have witnessed traffic surges and disruptions. Not all have confirmed they were the victims of an online onslaught, but such surges are a hallmark of denial-of-service attacks, which work by drowning target websites with streams of junk data.

Such attacks are fairly common and generally don't compromise sensitive data or do any lasting damage. Still, they can be a huge headache for companies that rely on their websites to interact with customers.

Most say the recent spate of attacks has been unusually powerful. PNC bank, which was hit Thursday, has never seen such a strong surge in traffic, spokesman Fred Solomon said.

Smith said the profile and power of the attack made it an unlikely fit for the religious youth that the Internet postings called upon to join in the anti-U.S. campaign. He explained that politically motivated hackers — often called hacktivists — usually flood the Web with appeals for support and post links to software that can turn followers' personal computers into crude cyberweapons.

Twitter and online chat rooms then explode with activity, as casual supporters pile in to coordinate attacks.

"You're not seeing that with this particular set of attacks," Smith said. "At the same time … the attack traffic is fairly homogeneous. It's not this wide cornucopia of attacks that's coming at you that you see with a hacktivist attack."

So who is behind the campaign?

Cybercriminals often use denial-of-service attacks to shake down smaller websites, but major U.S. banks make unlikely targets for a protection racket.

Could a state actor be at play? U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, without offering any proof, said he believed the assaults were carried out by Iran in retaliation for tightened economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

Smith demurred when asked who could be behind the campaign, although he said there were "only a handful of groups out there that have the technical ability or incentive" to carry it out.

In any case, the online attacks appeared to be easing. Solomon, the PNC bank spokesman, said while traffic remained heavy Friday the flow was gradually returning to normal.

Doug Johnson, with the American Bankers Association, echoed that assessment.

"I believe it's tapering off," he said.

Comments
Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists call for tech companies to drop NRA’s digital TV channel

Activists are calling for Apple, Amazon, Google and other streaming companies to drop the National Rifle Association’s digital TV channel in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida school last week, putting the companies in the delicate position o...
Published: 02/24/18
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Published: 02/23/18
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Published: 02/23/18
Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

Tampa Downtown Partnership gets initial city okay to expand north

TAMPA — The Downtowner may be heading to Tampa Heights — but not until Oct. 1.That’s because the nonprofit Tampa Downtown Partnership this week won initial City Council approval to expand into Tampa Heights."Tampa Heights is becoming an important gat...
Published: 02/23/18

Tampa lawyer gets 27 months in federal prison for insider trading

Tampa lawyer Walter "Chet’’ Little was sentenced this week to 27 months in federal prison for engaging in an insider trading scheme that reaped him and a friend profits totaling nearly $1 million.According to federal authorities, Little accessed comp...
Published: 02/23/18
More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

More companies are cutting ties with gun lobby as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam

Three major companies — Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, and the cybersecurity giant Symantec — have ended co-branding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.Enterprise...
Published: 02/23/18
Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citi to refund $330 Million to credit card customers it overcharged

Citigroup is preparing to issue $330 million in refunds after the bank discovered it had overcharged nearly 2 million credit card customers on their annual interest rates, a spokeswoman said Friday.The bank, which has about 150 million credit card ac...
Published: 02/23/18
Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

Girl Scouts camp sold to member of Tampa’s Lykes family

ODESSA — The 63-year-old lakeside summer camp had no air conditioning or electricity. Cabin floors were often covered in grime, and cobwebs clung to the windows.But under new ownership, the 18.6 acres of Florida woods known as Camp Scoutcrest to memb...
Published: 02/23/18
BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

BB&T cites ‘technical issue’ in outage affecting customers

Millions of BB&T customers were unable to access their accounts after a service outage which the bank blames on an equipment malfunction. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based bank posted a statement on its Twitter page saying the problem persiste...
Published: 02/23/18
Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

Realtors are ‘every 10 feet’ in Florida but more want in the business

ST. PETERSBURG — Tired of working as a yacht captain, Pancho Jiminez decided to get into real estate even though he knows it’s a highly competitive field in Florida."Realtors are every 10 feet around here," he says.Nonetheless, Jiminez is among 30 st...
Published: 02/23/18