September 19, 2012

A financial services industry group warned U.S. banks, brokerages and insurers on Wednesday to be on heightened alert for cyber attacks after Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase experienced unexplained outages on their public websites.

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which is widely known as FS-ISAC, raised the cyber threat level to "high" from "elevated" in an advisory to members, citing "recent credible intelligence regarding the potential" for cyber attacks as its reason for the move.

The problems with the websites at the two banks came after an unidentified person posted a statement on the Internet threatening to attack Bank of America and the New York Stock Exchange as a "first step" in a campaign against U.S. companies. The posting said the attacks would continue until the film that had stirred up anti-U.S. protests across the Middle East was "erased" from the Internet.

It was not possible to identify the person who posted the statement. Nor was it clear if the threat had anything to do with the issues at either of the two banks.

Dan Holden, director of security research at Arbor Networks, said that several U.S. banks were under assault by a distributed denial of service (DDoS) campaign. He declined to identify them by name.

An outside security contractor who was familiar with the attacks said that they were "massive" in scope.

Denial-of-service attacks seek to disrupt websites and other computer systems at the targeted organization by overwhelming their networks with computer traffic.

[See Also: Bank of America Alleged Cyber Attack Shows Need For Cooperation]

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