Hacktivists Threaten Five Banks with More Cyberattacks

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Hacktivists who claim responsibility for a series of cyberattacks on at least ten banks worldwide are vowing to reprise the electronic assaults on five of them in the coming days.

The al Qassam Cyber Fighters Group said late Monday it would target JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BCA), U.S. Bank (USB), PNC Financial (PNC) and SunTrust (STI) as part of a second phase of its operation.

According to the group, the attacks, like those it claims to have launched already, retaliate for the posting on YouTube of a trailer for "The Innocence of Muslims," an American-made, anti-Muslim film.

"In new phase, the wideness and the number of attacks will increase explicitly; and offenders and subsequently their governmental supporters will not be able to imagine and forecast the widespread and greatness of these attacks," the al Qassam group said in both an email and a message posted on Pastebin, a website used by computer programmers.

The group added that if the "film is going to be eliminated from the Internet, the...attacks also will be stopped."

Both PNC and SunTrust declined to comment on the threat, according to spokespeople. The other three banks the group says it has targeted did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

For its part, YouTube told American Banker in November the trailer comports with the company's content guidelines.

The attacks would constitute a repeat assault on the banks, which all saw their websites slow during a string of so-called denial of service attacks in September that U.S. officials called unprecedented in their scale and speed.

Other banks that have endured the assaults include Wells Fargo (WFC), BB&T (BBT), HSBC (HBC), Capital One (COF) and Regions Financial (RF).

American Banker has previously reported on a threat by the group to resume the attacks, which flood lines that connect banks to the Internet to prevent customers from retrieving their accounts.

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 said in an email in November. "In fact collective decision making leads us to move."

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