US banks are to get a break from the recent wave of DDoS attacks.
That's the message from the hacktivist group calling itself the Martyr Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters. Arguably not as catchy as LulzSec or Anonymous, the group's name is inspired by a jihadist who died in a firefight against British police outside Haifa, Palestine, in 1935.
The Cyber Fighters turned their virtual guns on banks -- including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and others -- beginning last fall. Reports today say the campaign of disruption has been suspended, following the removal of an anti-Muslim video from YouTube.
The group had a whole lot to say about it on Pastebin. Here are some highlights:
Well, after a while a little bit of rationalism was seen and the main copy of the insulting movie was removed from YouTube...This is a clear indication of progress and establishment of logic instead of obstinacy... All of us -- al-Qassam group, U.S. government, and even YouTube and Google's managers -- carrying on such a wise action have contributed to this victory and progress. The al-Qassam cyber fighters lauds this positive measure of YouTube and on this basis suspends his operation and plans to give a time to Google and U.S. government to remove the other copies of film as well.
And so on. Which raises a bunch of interesting questions.
First, are we really dealing with an independent group of hackers with -- right now -- one goal in mind? Second, what was all that noise from the US government about the bank attack being directed by the Iranian government? Third, was the removal of the video provoked by the hacking? Fourth, if it was, is that a good thing?
Let's take the first two questions together. Earlier this month, I cited a New York Times report that US government officials were attributing responsibility for these attacks to the Iranian government, possibly in retaliation to economic sanctions. Unnamed intelligent sources described the Cyber Fighters as "actually a cover for Iran."
Some IE readers, notably Kenton Smith, expressed skepticism, saying: "I have read a whole lot of; 'un-named sources,' 'not enough understanding,' 'could be,' etc."
There seem to me to be three possibilities here. Maybe the US government is smearing Iran, and it could have all kinds of reasons for doing so. Maybe Iran is keeping up an elaborate charade, the motivations for which are less clear; after all, it has been on the receiving end of US cyberattacks. Or maybe the Cyber Fighters are on the level, and are more concerned about the representation of Muslims on YouTube than geo-political strife.
Place your bets.
We might have more luck getting answers to the other questions. Last September, Google rejected requests to remove the offending video, although it restricted its distribution. We haven't yet heard from Google why the most-viewed version of the video has now been taken down (as appears to be the case; other versions are still posted). Watch this space.
As for whether Google should have removed the video (which it has said complied with its guidelines), there's room of course for many opinions. Some may think that Google was simply wrong in determining that the video did not constitute "hate speech." Others may be concerned that YouTube can be pressured into suppressing a video, no matter how offensive that video is.
I know: more questions than answers. That's cybersecurity for you.
— Kim Davis , Community Editor, Internet Evolution