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Bank Website Attackers Claim to Resume Campaign

The Islamist group claiming to be behind the sporadic attacks on U.S. bank websites says it will resume its activities today.
/ Source: TechNewsDaily

The Islamist group claiming to be behind the sporadic attacks on U.S. bank websites says it will resume its activities today.

"A number of American banks will be hit by denial-of-service attacks three days a week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during working hours," the Martyr Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters said in a message emailed to journalists and posted online today (March 5).

As of 4 p.m. Eastern Time, there were no reports of website disruptions.

The Qassam Cyber Fighters, who take their name from an Islamist anti-colonial guerrilla leader in Syria and Palestine between the world wars, had suspended what they call "Operation Ababil" in late January, after several copies of the trailer and full feature of the "Innocence of Muslims" movie was removed from YouTube.

However, the Qassam Cyber Fighters warned then that if other copies of "Innocence of Muslims" stayed up on YouTube, the group would end the suspension.

"Now at the end of one month time, it is seen that other copies of the film yet exist in YouTube, so we announce the Phase 3 of Operation Ababil will start this week," the group said today.

The attacks on banking websites began in mid-September, flooding a different site each time with massive amounts of useless data requests, essentially blocking the sites from the rest of the Internet.

Such denial-of-service attacks don't harm the Web servers being targeted, or the data they contain, but do inconvenience bank customers, especially small businesses that depend on continuous access to online banking.

The attacks had previously ceased for about a month last fall after the Qassam Cyber Fighters said they were taking time off to celebrate an Islamic holiday.

When the attacks resumed in mid-December, the group labeled it "Phase 2," although the attacks were substantially the same.

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has blamed Iran for the bank cyberattacks. Unnamed government officials have said no amateurs could create enough bogus bandwidth to disrupt the Bank of America or Citigroup websites, as the attacks have done.

However, a group of experts polled by TechNewsDaily in January said it was quite possible that motivated amateurs could mount such attacks.

[ Iran May Not Be Behind Bank Cyberattacks ]

The Qassam Cyber Fighters have denied any link to Iran or to any other government, and post their manifestos in English and Arabic rather than in Farsi, the dominant language of Iran.

However, their messages indicate that they believe the U.S. government directly controls YouTube, and that the removal of some "Innocence of Muslims" videos in January came about through a government order. (In fact, the original poster took them down.)

The group has a complicated formula that determines how long the attacks will continue. If our reading of the formula is correct, the current calculation is 11 more weeks.

Yesterday (March 4), Bloomberg News reported that several banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, PNC Bank, US Bancorp and Wells Fargo had all warned shareholders that the decline in consumer confidence and cost of defending websites incurred by the attacks might hurt the banks' bottom lines.

In today's posting, the group did not name the bank websites to be attacked.