A group that claims responsibility for a string of recent cyberattacks on at least 10 banks worldwide says it is waging the campaign to protest an anti-Muslim film and proceeding without a state sponsor.
The Izz ad-Din al Qassam Cyber Fighters Group has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that have flooded lines that connect banks to the Internet to prevent customers from retrieving their accounts.
The group said in an email to American Banker Thursday that the attacks will continue until Google takes down a trailer for “The Innocence of Muslims,” an American-made, anti-Muslim film that appears on its YouTube website. It also said that targeting banks can command the attention of a society the group claims values commerce above all.
“In the system where the religion and sacred things are not honorable, and only material, money and finance have value, this seems a suitable and effective way of act and can influence governors and decision makers,” the al Qassam group said in the email.
Though U.S. intelligence officials have said the hackers responsible for the assaults on banks may have ties to Iran, the al Qassam hacktivists say they are a group of volunteers who operate across cyberspace without a leader or geographic base. “There is no special leader,” al Qassam wrote. “In fact collective decision making leads us to move.”
The group also disavows attacks in January on the Tel Aviv stock exchange or El Al airlines. “No individual in the group has spoken about his probable activities in the past, or in the future which is not related to our operation, and if we ask each other about that, there will be no answer,” the group said in an email.
The hacktivists refused to describe the software used to deploy the so-called denial of service attacks, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month described as “unprecedented” in their scale and speed.
According to the group, which has previewed each of its targets in a series of messages it posts on Pastebin, a website used by programmers, Google’s refusal to remove the trailer reflects a bias against Muslims.
Google has yielded to requests it takes down videos that allegedly espoused terrorism, criticized governments in Thailand and Brazil, or ran afoul of laws in the United Kingdom or U.S., according to the hacktivists.
“Is ‘freedom of speech’ only against Muslims and only THEY must suffer from it,” al Qassam wrote. “Why [do] you consider Muslims objection against freedom of speech and do not take into account above examples against freedom of speech?”
For its part, Google says the trailer comports with the company's content guidelines. "We want YouTube to be a community everyone can enjoy as well as an important platform for free expression," a YouTube spokesperson said in an email to American Banker. "This inevitably raises tensions over some videos because what is OK in one country may be controversial in another. This video is within our community guidelines and so will stay on YouTube, consistent with principles we first laid out in 2007."
The White House asked the company to review the video in September determine whether it complied with YouTube’s terms after its airing was believed to have sparked a series of protests in several Middle Eastern countries, Politico reported.
“If the movie is removed, the attacks will be stopped,” the group said in the email.