Bank Attacker Iran Ties Questioned By Security Pros
U.S. government officials continue to blame Iran for launching attacks against U.S. banks, but some information security experts see only circumstantial evidence.
Numerous current and former U.S. officials have accused the Iranian government of sponsoring the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, which began in September and recently restarted. For four months, the attacks have disrupted the websites of many of the United States' leading financial institutions, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
Shortly after the first wave of attacks began, U.S. officials began blaming Iran, and have continued to do so. "There is no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks," James A. Lewis, who's a former official at the State and Commerce Departments, told the The New York Times.
Officials have also noted that the attacks are so sophisticated and unstoppable that only a nation state could have launched them. Others have said that the attackers have pursued disruption, rather than personal enrichment, which further suggests nation state involvement. But to date, government officials have produced no evidence that links Iran to the attacks.
Many information security experts, however, see no irrefutable signs of Iranian involvement. "You can tell that it was planned and executed pretty well," said Carl Herberger, VP of security solutions at Radware, which has been investigating the attacks on behalf of its customers.
But Herberger noted that project management skills aren't evidence of Iranian backing. "The best way I can probably say this is we've seen no irrefutable evidence that it's a single nation state or single actor that's participating in the attacks," he said. "There's nothing we've seen that can't be perpetrated by a small amount of knowledgeable individuals, whether they be associated with a nation state or otherwise."
What is clear is that the attacks aren't the work of amateurs. "The attacks have a couple of attributes attached to them which lead people to believe they're a little more professional," he said. "Some of the attacks are very well organized, choreographed and obfuscated. They have nice cloaking mechanisms, including the ability to masquerade the origin of the command-and-control infrastructure. ... There's clearly a management effort, and there are some beautifully designed tools able to perpetrate this attack."
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