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updated 9/21/2012 12:50:10 PM ET 2012-09-21T16:50:10

Earlier this week, a group claiming to be Middle Eastern hackers claimed credit for apparent cyberattacks on the websites of two U.S. banks, citing outrage over the infamous "Innocence of Muslims" online video clip.

But now, one media report quotes unnamed U.S. experts who believe the claims were lies meant to divert attention from government-backed Iranian hackers, reports say.

After the customer-facing websites of Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase suffered outages this week, one former U.S. official told NBC News that the outages may have been caused by state-sponsored hackers in Iran.

The former official described attacks against banks as "significant and ongoing" in an attempt to cause "functional and significant damage."

NBC also reported that the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Intelligence Directorate issued a report last week that confirms a steady barrage of online attacks against financial institutions coming from Iran.

Several sources said both websites were disrupted by a coordinated flood of access requests from many computers known as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack.  Bank of America ran into trouble on Tuesday (Sept. 18) and Chase had issues the following day.

Intelligence company Flashpoint Partners told FOX Business that the New York Stock Exchange also had problems with one of its websites after a DDoS "webhive" attack launched by a group called SaudiAnonymous1.

QassamCyberfighters, the name of the group or individual claiming responsibility for the Chase and Bank of America attacks, announced them in Pastebin postings.

"In the second step we attacked the largest bank of the united states, the 'chase' bank. These series of attacks will continue until the Erasing of that nasty movie from the Internet. The site 'www.chase.com' is down and also Online banking at 'chaseonline.chase.com' is being decided to be Offline! Down with modern infidels," the latest post said.

This week's spike in alleged cyberattacks on financial traders prompted the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center to issue a warning and tell financial institution's IT departments to "maintain a heightened level of awareness."

Neither Chase nor Bank of America have said what caused their website problems, though Bank of America stated that no customer data had been compromised. Today (Sept. 21), both websites appear to be functioning properly.

© 2012 SecurityNewsDaily. All rights reserved

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