Hacktivist group suspends bank attacks

Halting of ongoing DDoS attacks follows YouTube's removal of controversial anti-Islam video, al-Qassam group says

A group claiming responsibility for a string of cyberattacks against several major U.S. banks over the past four months today said that it has suspended its campaign in response to YouTube's apparent removal of a controversial anti-Muslim video.

The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters group launched the attacks last October to protest the posting of a 14-minute trailer of "Innocence of Muslims," a movie insulting Prophet Muhammed that sparked widespread protests across the Middle East last year.

At that time, Google removed the video in some countries but let it remain on YouTube in several other countries because the video did not violate its policies.

The al-Qassam group, which claims to be based in Iran, launched a series of dedicated denial of service (DDoS) attacks against Wells Fargo , JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, CapitalOne, Citibank and more than 20 other banks. The attacks, which have caused considerable service disruptions to the banks, have been ongoing since then.

In a statement posted on Pastebin on Tuesday, the group said that it was stopping the attacks for now. "Well, after a while a little bit of rationalism was seen and the main copy of the insulting movie was removed from YouTube," the statement noted.

"This is a clear indication of progress and establishment of logic instead of obstinacy. This positive move is a humanitarian effort and in line with paying respect to divine religions which has made billions of people love them," the statement read.

The statement added that the group would give Google a little more time to remove other copies of the trailer from YouTube as well. The video that was removed from YouTube was the most viewed, with over 17 million hits, but several other copies of the trailer remain online, the group said.

"All of them needed to be removed. Meanwhile, we will control the situation constantly and closely and will adopt the correct decision according to the future circumstances," the statement said. "The Suspension of Operation Ababil has started today and will continue till further notice."

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment, so it was not possible to confirm any of al-Qassam's claims.

The DDoS attacks against banks over the past few months have garnered considerable attention from security experts for their sophistication . Many have described the attacks as high-bandwidth attacks that on occasion have generated 75GBps of DDoS traffic.

Unlike past DDoS attacks, in which attackers commanded hundreds of thousands of infected PCs to send streams of useless traffic to targeted systems, the ones targeting banks involved thousands of compromised servers, capable of generating far greater amounts of traffic.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

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