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Citizens Bank dealing with issues regarding online services

| Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 11:20 a.m.

Citizens Bank has become the latest large U.S. bank to have online services disrupted — apparently by hackers.

Since Thursday, the banks' customers have had intermittent difficulty in getting access to online and mobile banking services, bank officials said.

The bank is not describing the problems as part of a cyber attack, but Theresa M. McLaughlin, the bank's chief marketing and communications officer, said in a letter to bank customers that they were “similar to disruptions that recently have impacted other U.S. banks.”

Its website has experienced temporary disruptions because of an unusually high volume of Internet traffic, known as distributed denial of service, or DDoS, McLaughlin said. Citizens customers may experience either slow response times or unavailability of online and mobile banking. Some Citizens' customers expressed frustration and worry on the bank's Facebook page.

This month, a computer-hacking group that claims responsibility for cyber attacks on PNC Bank vowed to continue trying to shut down American banking websites for at least the next six months.

The assault on PNC's website started in early December. Other banks affected by attacks included JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

A group calling itself the Martyr Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters claimed responsibility on an Internet posting and says the attacks are in retaliation for an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube.

E. Douglas Harris, executive director of the CyberSecurity and Emergency Preparedness Institute at the University of Texas at Dallas said such attacks have so far mostly been an annoyance to customers.

“I personally think this is part of a bigger plan. They are just trying to see what they can get away with. What would happen if Wall Street shut down for a week?” he said.

Financial institutions have not adequately designed for Internet security, Harris said.

“We are not designing for security well enough. We are patching things up after there are problems,” he said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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