OpUSA Threatens American Banks And Government Agencies

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

US expects the operation to go off with a whimper

Hacking offensive OpUSA, hoping to disrupt major US banks and government agencies, was launched today with grand ambitions – but is expected to be a flop.

A group calling itself N4m3le55 Cr3w announced the attacks last month, although it is believed a variety of actors are taking part, including individuals claiming to be members of hacktivist group Anonymous. They have promised database dumps, website defacements and other kinds of attack.

One of those involved, who uses the Twitter handle @An0nGhost, was part of the recent OpIsrael campaign, which failed to live up to perpetrators’ hopes, according to security experts.

On-line Piracy Key © bloomua - FotoliaOpUSA: ‘a nuisance and nothing more’

The AnonGhost team appears to have defaced a large number of websites, including adult friend finder site Pleasure4u2, but has thus far caused no trouble for the main targets of OpUSA, which includes the NSA, FBI and the White House websites.

Banks, including the Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which were hit by distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks last year and in 2012 by the Op Ababil attackers, are also on the OpUSA hit list.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security warned about the attacks, claiming most were to emanate from the Middle East and North Africa. A DHS alert obtained by KrebsOnSecurity claimed the attacks would likely “result in limited disruptions and mostly consist of nuisance-level attacks against publicly accessible webpages and possibly data exploitation”.

“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 note read.

“The campaign’s members have used social media and web forums hosting violent extremist content to attract additional participants and raise awareness of the efforts.”

N4m3le55 Cr3w said it had initiated OpUSA for America’s “war crimes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan” and in the US itself. It listed a host of hacking teams expected to join OpUSA, including the Muslim Liberation Army and LulzSec.

Don Smith, technology director at Dell SecureWorks, told TechWeek there had been little sign of damaging OpUSA attacks. “There’s really been nothing since the defacements earlier today and a lot of them weren’t new.”

What do you know about Internet security? Find out with our quiz!