Cyberwar speeds up: US blames Iran for renewed attacks on American banks

AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm

Iranian hackers intent on disrupting the United States’ financial sector are once again on the attack, this time with US officials claiming America’s biggest banks have been hit as a cyberwar against the country’s Middle East adversary intensifies.

Capital One Financial Corp. and BB&T Corp. are two of the latest targets in a renewed assault on America’s online-infrastructure as hackers identified as members of a shadowy group of Iranians irate with the US policy wage a computer-controlled war for the fifth straight week.

The Qassam Cyber Fighters are taking credit for the latest attack and say it’s in response to the anti-Islamic “Innocence of Muslims” movie produced in America that has also been blamed for a string of violent protests in the Arab World in recent weeks.

“We have a suggestion for Mr. Panetta,” the hackers write in a message to the US Secretary of Defense posted this week on the Internet. Instead of “spending several billions that won’t be good for you, tell your henchmen on YouTube” to remove the video.

There could be more to the malicious assault than just that, however, as the Wall Street Journal cites unnamed US officials who suggest the cyberstrike is in retaliation for the American-endorsed sanctions on Iran that have all but crippled that country’s oil exports and crumbled the worth of the Islamic Republic’s currency.

That isn’t to say that the latest series of assaults comes amid a one-sided war, though. While US officials remain largely off the record when disclosing America’s own cyberassaults, the country has been credited with relentlessly ravaging Iran’s computer networks. And although the US is believed to have fired the first shot in a secretive cyberwar, they very well might also make the last.

When quizzed on how soon Iranian action will prompt the US to respond to cyberattacks with the world’s most heavily-armed military, a senior US official speaking anonymously tells the Journal, “It’s a fair question,” but adding, “I am not sure I have the answer to it.”

That admission echoes a warning Sec. Panetta put forth earlier this month. During a cybersecurity address in New York, the Pentagon chief said“If we detect an imminent threat of attack that will cause significant physical destruction in the United States or kill American citizens, we need to have the option to take action against those who would attack us, to defend this nation when directed by the president.”

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