The Iranian government has officially denied any involvement in the wave of relatively unsophisticated cyber attacks that have struck glancing blows on websites for U.S. financial institutions over the past months.
"Unlike the United States, which has, per reports in the media, given itself the license to engage in illegal cyber-warfare against Iran, Iran respects the international law and refrains from targeting other nations' economic or financial institutions," the Iranian mission to the United Nations said in a statement, according to a report published late Thursday by Iran's semi-official PressTV.
The websites for several major U.S. financial institutions, including Bank of America, PNC, Wells Fargo and the New York Stock Exchange have suffered intermittent disruptions since September, apparently the product of what's known as distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks designed to flood the websites with enough traffic to knock it out of commission. The DDoS attacks, though unprecedented in size and stamina, do not breach the banks' secure networks or access confidential information. They have, however, kept some online customers from accessing their accounts for brief periods.
Shortly after the banks' websites started crashing, U.S. officials told several news organizations, including ABC News, that they suspected Iran was behind the wave of attacks, even though another group calling itself the al-Qassam Cyber Fighters took credit for it online. In a report by The New York Times Thursday, a former U.S. official said there was "no doubt within the U.S. government that Iran is behind these attacks."
"We believe that raising such groundless accusations are aimed at sullying Iran's image and fabricating pretexts to push ahead with and step up illegal actions against the Iranian nation and government," the Iran's missions statement said, apparently referring to the U.S.'s alleged involvement in a series of powerful cyber attacks targeting Iran.
A spokesperson for the al-Qassam Cyber Fighters told ABC News in November that they are not connected to any government, but are only trying to force the U.S. government to get YouTube to remove the extremely low-budget film "The Innocence of Muslims" from its website. The film, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a fraud and pedophile, sparked real-world protests in more than a dozen countries in September.
Roel Schouwenberg, a senior researcher at the Moscow-based cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, told ABC News today that the DDoS attacks could have been done by an independent group and did not necessarily require the expertise or financial support that a state like Iran could provide.
"It's really rather simple," he said. "We don't see enough evidence that would categorize this operation as something only a nation-state sponsored actor could pull off."