US banks under cyber attack !!


Security researchers at McAfee labs believe Project Blitzkrieg, a plan to use malware to steal money from 30 banks in the U.S., is a real threat not to be taken lightly. The security company released a report about the project that was originally announced in September on a Russian forum. A cyber-criminal by the handle “vorVzakone” originally posted the intent to hack into 30 banks across the U.S. and steal information and money using a trojan. A trojan is a type of malware that secretly enters a computer system by pretending to be something innocuous.

McAfee says that the forum post originally called for developer help and said the trojan would be launched within a few weeks. Timing for the attacks have not been confirmed, though a number of banks were recently hit with denial of service attacks (DDOS) that took down their websites. DDOS attacks work by flooding a system’s servers with traffic, causing it to overload and shut down. This kind of attack does not actually reach the inside of the system, allowing hackers access, but is sometimes used a diversion tactic while hackers silently gain illegal access to the servers.

“McAfee Labs believes that Project Blitzkrieg is a credible threat to the financial industry and appears to be moving forward as planned. Not only did we find evidence validating the existence of an early pilot campaign operated by vorVzakone and his group using the Trojan Prinimalka that infected at a minimum 300 to 500 victims across the United States, but we were also able to track additional campaigns as a result of the forum posting,” said McAfee Labs threat researcher Ryan Sherstobitoff in the report.

McAfee believes the trojan in use here is called Prinimalka, a piece of malware originally built in 2008. VorVzakone’s forum post also said that the trojan had already stolen $5 million from unknown institutions.(Read more at http://venturebeat.com/2012/12/13/us-bank-threats/#miGWuyOSziGXZhGm.99)

On the other hand, Since September, U.S. banks have been battling with mixed success distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks from a self-proclaimed hactivist group called Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters. Despite its claims of being a grassroots operation, U.S. government officials and security experts say the group is a cover for Iran.

“There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks,” 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, told The New York Times.

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.

American officials have not offered any technical evidence to back up their claims, but computer security experts say the recent attacks showed a level of sophistication far beyond that of amateur hackers. Also, the hackers chose to pursue disruption, not money: another earmark of state-sponsored attacks, the experts said.

“The scale, the scope and the effectiveness of these attacks have been unprecedented,” said Carl Herberger, vice president of security solutions at Radware, a security firm that has been investigating the attacks on behalf of banks and cloud service providers. “There have never been this many financial institutions under this much duress.”

Since September, intruders have caused major disruptions to the online banking sites of Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bancorp, PNC, Capital One, Fifth Third Bank, BB&T and HSBC.

They employed DDoS attacks, or distributed denial of service attacks, named because hackers deny customers service by directing large volumes of traffic to a site until it collapses. No bank accounts were breached and no customers’ money was taken.

By using data centers, the attackers are simply keeping up with the times. Companies and consumers are increasingly conducting their business over large-scale “clouds” of hundreds, even thousands, of networked computer servers.

These clouds are run by Amazon and Google, but also by many smaller players who commonly rent them to other companies. It appears the hackers remotely hijacked some of these clouds and used the computing power to take down American banking sites.

“There’s a sense now that attackers are crafting their own private clouds,” either by creating networks of individual machines or by stealing resources wholesale from poorly maintained corporate clouds, said John Kindervag, an analyst at Forrester Research. How, exactly, attackers are hijacking data centers is still a mystery. Making matters more complex, they have simultaneously introduced another weapon: encrypted DDoS attacks.

Banks encrypt customers’ online transactions for security, but the encryption process consumes system resources. By flooding banking sites with encryption requests, attackers can further slow or cripple sites with fewer requests.A hacker group calling itself Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters has claimed in online posts that it was responsible for the attacks.

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