The FBI is investigating several major cyber attacks on U.S. banks by a Russian hacker group. The biggest bank to be hit, JPMorgan Chase, is also the biggest U.S. financial institution by total assets. Bloomberg News reports:
Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are also linked to the attack, one of the people said.
It is unclear whether the attackers were acting on behalf of the Russian government, although that is at least a plausible scenario. The Russian hackers seem more sophisticated than even a top notch criminal group, and their actions trace Russian political interests very closely. But, the attacks could also have been carried out by Russian hackers who are sympathetic to Putin’s government, but not working for it. The FT reports:
Scott Borg, chief executive of the US Cyber Consequences Unit, an independent, non-profit research institute, said Russian cyber criminals were “very sensitive” to political events, citing a campaign waged against Georgia. While not actively employed by the Russian government, the groups have connections to power, he said.“They are tolerated and even to some degree protected by the Russian government because they regularly engage in ‘patriotic hacking’,” he said. “But they will often carry out cyber attacks that allow them to profit, while still falling in line with what they perceive to be Russia’s political interests.”
Russia has promised retaliation for the economic sanctions levied by the U.S. and allies over President Putin’s invasion of Crimea and subsequent backing of rebel groups in Ukraine’s East. While Moscow’s first move was banning imports of Western food products, the FT reports that it is now mulling over further counter-sanctions, including a ban on European and American flights over Russian airspace and restrictions on industrial trade. But if the Russian government is indeed backing cyber attacks on the biggest U.S. banks, that represents a whole other level of escalation—and a big next step for the new world disorder.