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Sunday, April 28, 2013

U.S. response to bank cyberattacks reflects diplomatic caution, vexes bank industry

The United States, concerned that Iran is behind a string of cyberattacks against U.S. banking sites, has considered delivering a formal warning through diplomatic channels but has not pursued the idea out of fears that doing so could escalate hostilities, according to American officials. It also reflects the pressure the administration is under from banking industry officials, who want to know what amount of pain or damage will justify a government response. “We don’t have a clear view of what are the triggers — and we’ve asked,” said one industry official who has been involved in discussions with the administration and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Administration officials say it is difficult and unwise to be too precise about potential responses because they do not want to set red lines that, if crossed, might obligate them to act.


“You’re always going to see the government be more cautious and incremental in response to most incidents than the private sector probably would like,” Michael Daniel, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, said in a recent interview, speaking generally.

This much is clear: The last eight months of disruptions to bank Web sites, caused by efforts to crash servers with torrents of computer traffic, have not been severe enough to trigger a military response, cyber or otherwise.

Daniel, the White House cyber official, said he thinks companies need to do more to defend their own networks as part of a “spectrum of responsibility” that includes the public and private sectors.

At a March meeting of banking executives hosted by the Treasury Department, U.S. officials made clear to the chief executive officers that they could not simply rely on the government for cybersecurity. Some banking officials say they would like the providers — including Verizon, AT&T and Century Link — to do more to block malicious traffic headed toward their networks.

Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, suggested that the Internet companies would be best positioned to block an Aramco-type attack with help from the NSA. If a company is asked by the government to screen the traffic to stop an attack, it could be seen as acting as a government agent, exposing the firm to legal action.

Alexander, industry officials say, would like the Internet providers to be able to screen traffic entering U.S. networks, but privacy laws prevent them from doing so unless, for instance, they have customer consent or a court order.



Posted on 04/28