Citing an unnamed U.S. government official and other anonymous sources briefed by U.S. law enforcement, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that JPMorgan Chase, as well as at least four other financial institutions, have been hacked.
“[The FBI is] working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber attacks against several American financial institutions,” Joshua Campbell, supervisory special agent with the FBI, told SCMagazine.com in a Thursday statement.
The attackers – who are said to be Russian and state-sponsored – may have exploited a zero-day vulnerability in at least one bank's website, and then weaved through layers of complex security in order to gain access to sensitive information, the report indicates.
“Most probably, [the zero-day vulnerability was in] a common web application or a web server service, as this [zero]-day was also known to be used against other financial institutions,” Aviv Raff, CTO of Seculert, told SCMagazine.com in a Thursday email correspondence.
Lucas Zaichkowsky, enterprise defense architect with AccessData, told SCMagazine.com in a Thursday email correspondence that Eastern European attackers are well-known for exploiting web application security flaws to gain initial access into corporate environments.
“That's because web applications tend to be riddled with these types of vulnerabilities unless a Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) is strictly followed and the developers are highly skilled in secure coding practices,” Zaichkowsky said.
Gigabytes of sensitive data were stolen in the attacks, including information from employee computers and information that could be used to drain funds from accounts, according to the report, which adds that there have been no signs of money being moved from accounts or other fraud.
The motivations for the attacks are unclear – in a Thursday email correspondence, Armond Caglar, senior threat specialist with TSC Advantage, told SCMagazine.com that checking and savings account information could have been the reason these financial institutions were targeted, and Zaichkowsky agreed.
“Any intelligence information gleaned from the gigabytes of data that was stolen, such as possible [mergers and acquisitions] activity and other sensitive data, only serves an ancillary benefit that is eventually passed to other actors within the state apparatus whose primary focus is corporate espionage,” Caglar said.
When the incidents began and what other tactics were used is unknown – in a Thursday email correspondence, Nir Polak, CEO of Exabeam, told SCMagazine.com that attackers will spend weeks or months identifying people with the right type of network access, and use social media channels that offer personal information to craft convincing phishing emails.
“In any breach where customer information is affected, transparency and regular communications is very important for re-building trust,” Zaichkowsky said, going on to add, “I'd encourage them to maintain a communications page with definitive updates as progress is made.”
In an April letter to shareholders, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, wrote, "By the end of 2014, we will have spent more than $250 million annually with approximately 1,000 people focused on the [cybersecurity] effort." JPMorgan Chase spent $200 million on cybersecurity in 2012, according to the letter.
JPMorgan Chase did not respond to a SCMagazine.com request for comment.