Banks: Cyber attacks could slow service today

Criminal hackers are threatening cyber attacks today against the websites of high-profile targets that include the White House, U.S. Department of Defense, Federal Bureau of Investigation and a wide array of banks and credit unions, including some in Ohio.

The Ohio Credit Union League on Monday issued its first-ever widespread consumer notice warning of a coordinated online attack, in conjunction with the Ohio Bankers League. The potential cyber attack could render online banking services unavailable, officials said.

“We are taking it very serious,” said Patrick Harris, an Ohio Credit Union League spokesman. The threat is a “large, organized attack,” titled Operation USA, that is being coordinated by the Internet activist group Anonymous, he said.

Financial institutions listed as targets in an April 24 Anonymous Pastebin post obtained by the Dayton Daily News include JP Morgan Chase, PNC, U.S. Bank, Fifth Third and Key banks.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reportedly issued a warning bulletin May 1 that said a group of mostly Middle East- and North Africa-based criminal hackers were preparing to launch a cyber attack campaign starting Tuesday against websites of U.S. government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses.

An April 21 Pastebin post threatened to wipe the targets’ web sites “off the cyber map.”

Anonymous will target the organizations’ websites with Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, according to the Ohio Credit Union and Bankers leagues. This type of cyber attack floods targeted sites with an extremely high volume of electronic traffic from thousands of locations around the world.

This flood of traffic has the potential to disrupt website operations and crowd out legitimate customers trying to use the targeted site. Officials said the attacks could temporarily hamper customers’ ability to conduct transactions online.

“We don’t think there will be any direct influence on members’ accounts or any type of fraud on a member account,” Harris said. “This is strictly just an attempt to bring down websites,” he said.

The worse-case scenario for customers will be a slowdown in web-based services provided by financial institutions, said Tracy A. Fors, Wright-Patt Credit Union’s vice president of marketing and business development.

Wright-Patt Credit Union officials will be monitoring the institution’s online traffic throughout the day for any signs of a cyber attack. The institution prepares for such events on a regular basis and has internal processes in place to address them, she said.

“We know what to expect. We know that we have taken a look at everything to make sure that we won’t be compromised,” Fors said.

Harris said customers should contact their bank or credit union directly if the financial institution’s online platform isn’t operating.

A series of cyber attacks on financial institutions in February and March resulted in 15 of the largest U.S. banks being offline for a total of 249 hours over a six-week period, according to Keynote Systems Inc., a San Mateo, California-based company that measures websites’ response times.

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