NBC News and news services
updated 11/30/2006 6:54:49 PM ET 2006-11-30T23:54:49

The U.S. government has notified U.S. private financial services of a call for a cyber attack against U.S. online stock trading and banking Web sites beginning Friday, officials said.

Almost immediately, however, other officials downplayed the risk of any danger to U.S. financial institutions.

NBC News' Pete Williams reported that a unit of the Homeland Security Department sent out an advisory to banks, saying that a jihadist Web site posted an “aspirational” item, which said it would be a good thing to carry out cyber attacks on the U.S. financial industry to retaliate for abuses at the Guantanamo Bay prison facility.

The item was one posting on a Web site that expressed a desire, and is not thought to be in any way imminent or actual.

Two officials — a person familiar with the warning and a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security — said the group aimed to penetrate and destroy the databases of the U.S. stock market and banking Web sites.

Homeland Security said it had no evidence to corroborate the threat but had issued the warning out of an "abundance of caution." The department said in a statement that the threat was for all of December.

"There is no information to corroborate this aspirational threat. As a routine matter and out of an abundance of caution, US-CERT issued the situational awareness report to industry stakeholders," said Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke.

US-CERT is the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. The U.S. government said the threat was to avenge the holding of suspected terrorists at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Official concern about the matter is low, NBC's Williams reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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