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Hackers threaten to resume cyberattacks on banks

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 12:30 p.m.

The al Qassam Cyber Fighters, a hacking group that claimed responsibility for months of cyberattacks on U.S. banks, said it hit about a dozen bank websites on Monday, including PNC Bank and Citizens Bank. The group continues to demand removal of anti-Muslim videos from YouTube.

The Cyber Fighters, which crippled many bank websites between September and January with so-called denial-of-service attacks, issued an “ultimatum” on Tuesday warning of a new round of attacks.

Denial-of-service attacks flood a website with traffic, overwhelming it and preventing legitimate users from gaining access.

PNC spokeswoman Marcey Zwiebel said the Pittsburgh-based bank's website has not experienced problems. Citizens, the second-largest bank in Pittsburgh, declined to comment.

The hackers' group, which federal officials and Internet security experts believe is a front for the Iranian government, said it initiated a one-day attack Monday against Bank of America, PNC Bank, CapitalOne, Fifth Third Bank, Comerica, Citizens Bank, Patelco Credit Union in San Francisco and several others to demonstrate the “seriousness” of its demands.

“This is the last al-qassam's ultimatum to U.S. government, and, we announce that if the insulting films are not removed in the following days the Operation Ababil will be started again next week, March 5, 2013,” the group wrote on Internet message board Pastebin.com.

Sitedown.co, a website that tracks customer reports of website outages, showed Bank of America, Patelco, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, CapitalOne and Umpqua Bank in Portland, Ore., experiencing problems on Monday and Tuesday.

In late January, the Cyber Fighters said it was suspending attacks when a YouTube video that insulted the Islamic Prophet Muhammad was taken down. But four videos that remain online continue to draw the group's ire.

Internet security experts have said that denial-of-service attacks typically seek to disrupt commerce, not steal financial or personal information. In previous attacks, banks have said no customer information was compromised.

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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