There was a weird spate of reporting on the cyberthreat to banks last week. Normally, security firms (and occasionally really good tech journalists) report under their own name on such attacks — after all, they have businesses to run! But not the story — first reported by Bloomberg Wednesday evening — that Russia had attacked JP Morgan. At first, these reports appeared to be coming from FBI — given that the FBI investigation served as the lede of the story.
Russian hackers attacked the U.S. financial system in mid-August, infiltrating and stealing data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and at least one other bank, an incident the FBI is investigating as a possible retaliation for government-sponsored sanctions, according to two people familiar with the probe.
The attack resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the probe is still preliminary.
But over the course of the story — and two more sources introduced with no description beyond that they had been briefed on the probe — the FBI officially gave no comment.
The sophistication of the attack and technical indicators extracted from the banks’ computers provide some evidence of a government link. Still, the trail is muddy enough that investigators are considering the possibility that it’s cyber criminals from Russia or elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Other federal agencies, including the National Security Agency, are now aiding the investigation, a third person familiar with the probe said.
J. Peter Donald, an FBI spokesman in New York, declined to comment.
In at least one of the attacks, the hackers grabbed sensitive data from the files of bank employees, including executives, according to a fourth person briefed on the probe, who, like the other individuals with knowledge of the matter, declined to divulge the name of victims other than JPMorgan. Some data related to customers may also have been accessed, the person said.
The NYT’s version of the story, published later on Wednesday, also cited a bunch of people described only as “briefed on the continuing investigation.”
A number of United States banks, including JPMorgan Chase and at least four others, were struck by hackers in a series of coordinated attacks this month, according to four people briefed on a continuing investigation into the crimes.
The hackers infiltrated the networks of the banks, siphoning off gigabytes of data, including checking and savings account information, in what security experts described as a sophisticated cyberattack.
The motivation and origin of the attacks are not yet clear, according to investigators. The F.B.I. is involved in the investigation, and in the past few weeks a number of security firms have been brought in to conduct forensic studies of the penetrated computer networks.
According to two other people briefed on the matter, hackers infiltrated the computer networks of some banks and stole checking and savings account information from clients.