Middle East hackers target operation at US banks

A little known but well organised hacker group in the Middle East has disrupted the electronic banking operations of America's largest financial institutions in recent days, underlining the vulnerability of the US to online terrorism.

A group identifying itself as Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters attacked the websites of Wells Fargo, US Bancorp as also Bank of America with strikes that left customers temporarily unable to access their checking accounts, mortgages and other services.

According to the banks, account and personal information of tens of millions of online and mobile customers was not compromised, but experts say the scale and ferocity of the attacks pointed to the broader threat by electronic crime and the susceptibility of financial targets.

What was particularly disconcerting, according to experts was that the attackers used the internet to warn the institutions ahead of time the banks still could not repel the assaults.

According to James Lewis, an expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, the banks had put a lot of effort into cyber security, but they were so desirable as a target, even with all that effort they still had problems. He added if one could pull together enough resources, any defense couled be overwhelmed temporarily.

The attacks on banks started last week on the largest institutions in the country - JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America, which spread quickly to Wells Fargo on Tuesday and another attack had been threatened against PNC Financial Services on today.