A group of mostly Middle East and North Africa based criminal hackers launched a cyber-attack campaign Tuesday that tested the cybersecurity of U.S. government agencies, financial institutions and commercial businesses.
Dubbed OpUSA, the effort is the latest in a string of cyber-attacks on crucial U.S. entities aimed at slowing down or blocking these heavily trafficked sites.
"We see this as a widening in the cyber war front and organizations may require new tactics or technical defenses to defend," Carl Herberger, VP of security solutions at Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR) told FOX Business Network.
"We anticipate that today's [Tuesday] attacks will be against high impact targets, including government websites, law enforcement organizations, brand-name entities, financial services organizations and critical infrastructure providers," he added.
The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned of the attacks weeks ago.
"The attacks will likely result in limited disruptions and mostly consistent of nuisance level attacks against publicly accessible web pages and possible data exploitation," read an unclassified memo from Homeland Security, first obtained by cybersecurity blog KrebsOnSecurity.com.
"Independent of the success of the attacks, the criminal hackers likely will leverage press coverage and social media to propagate an anti-US message," the alert said.
Indeed, the story made its rounds in the media, while cybersecurity personnel were on high alert.
Limited Disruption Expected
The "hit" list includes Websites associated with the U.S. Department of Defense, the Pentagon, the National Archives, the National Security Agency, the FBI and the White House.
Also targeted are some 140 U.S. banks including giants Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC), Capital One Financial Corp. (NYSE: COF), Citigroup (NYSE: C) JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM), PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC), SunTrust Banks Inc (NYSE: STI) and Well Fargo & Co (NYSE: WFC). Regional banks such as Valley National Bancorp (NYSE: VLY) and First Horizon National Corp (NYSE: FHN) are also targeted.
One post from hacktivists that assumed an unidentified label wrote, "Anonymous will make sure that this May 7th will be a day to remember."
"Let's hurt them where it hurts most," said a message posted on Pastebin, a popular file-sharing site.
Another post claimed the attacks are in response to America's involvement in wars in the Middle East.
That rambling post, peppered with profanity and threats, read: "On that day anonymous will start phase one of operation USA. America you have committed multiple war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and recently you have committed war crimes in your own country. We will now wipe you off the cyber map. Do not take this as a warning. You cannot stop the Internet hate machines from doxes, DNS attacks, defaces, redirects, ddos attacks, database leaks and admin take overs."
Tuesday's cyber attack alert comes on the heels of the hacking of some high-profile Twitter accounts including NPR, Reuters, BBC and Al Jazeera. A group called the Syrian Electronic Army, with suspected ties to the Syrian government, has taken credit for the breaches.
On April 24, the group violated the Twitter account of the Associated Press. It sent out a false tweet about an explosion at the White House that injured U.S. President Barack Obama.
Re-tweeted thousands of times within minutes, the bogus tweet sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging 143 points. The Dow quickly recovered after the tweet was proved false and AP quickly responded.
"All: The main @AP Twitter account has been hacked. The tweets coming out of there are false. We are working to correct the problem," AP wrote.
Cyber Attacks "As Serious As a Nuclear Bomb"
Cyber-attacks are a growing threat to global governments, trade secrets and infrastructures.
"Threats are more diverse, interconnected and viral than at any time in history," James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, said in a testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"Attacks, which might involve cyber and financial weapons, can be deniable and unattributable. Destruction can be invisible, latent and progressive," Clapper added.
Gen. Fang Fenghui, chief of staff of China's People's Liberation Army said cyber attacks could be "as serious as a nuclear bomb." Fenghui made the statement last month after rejecting suggestions the Chinese military is behind cyber-spying of numerous Western companies.
The U.S. has stepped up efforts to combat cyber-attacks as hackers grow bolder, more sophisticated and increasingly dangerous.
"A cyber attack against a government agency or a defense contractor is an attack against our nation," said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Investors: Cybersecurity companies are becoming a necessity to our nation's safety. Check out 4 Stocks to Buy in the Exploding Cybersecurity Market
Watch where you click: International cyber attacks on the rise.
FOX Business News:
Hackers Launch opUSA, Targeting Banks, Government Agencies
opUSA Hackers Plan Day To Remember With May 7 Attacks on Banks, Government Agencies
Government Takes Precautions Over Expected "OpUSA' Cyber Attack