msnbc | September 22, 2012
>>> leeb erman now accusing the iranian government of being behind this week's cyber attacks on bank of america and jpmorgan, in a new interview with c-span the senator said "i don't believe that these were just hackers. i think this was done by iran and their quints force which is its own cyber developing attack capacity." nbc news reported on thursday that iran was behind the attack. royaltiers now also reporting these attacks have been ongoing since late last year. jim finkel has been covering this story for reuters. jim explain how damaging these attacks are and what they could do to the average banking consumer here in the states.
>> sure, thomas. first of all we need to say that we don't really know what kind of damage the iranian hackers have inflicted on the banks . all we know because it's classified and because the banks aren't talk about it, all we really know we're starting to get a little bit of information. we know of course when the web sites go down and senator lieberman attributes that to the iranian hackers. we know that that's related. so the banks that were involved in this were citi, jp morgan and bank of america . those are extremely well-protected banks . and probably they're going to be able to come back really quickly when there's an attack like this. the concern is more what might happen with smaller banks that don't have the same kind cyber security protections.
>> according to your report iran has beefed up its cyber capabilities after its nuclear program was damaged in 2010 by a virus presumed to be inflicted by the u.s. was this them just retaliating back to the u.s., hitting regular americans in the pocket books and setting that terrorism type of fear that our banks are going to be compromised because of the types of attacks that america has presumably done to their nuclear capabilities?
>> sure. it's retaliation and it's also them realizing that they need these kind of capabilities to protect themselves. so they've beefed up their cyber defenses as well as their offenses. but it's not just about scaring people. again it's not clear. we're unable to get complete information about what sort of capabilities the iranians have. but there's no reason to assume that they don't have capabilities that could actually inflict damage to banks and other parts of the infrastructure.
>> why do you think that we're just learning about this now? i know you've been reporting about this. but we've had the ideas or the inference that this has been going on or about to come for a very long time.
>> sure. so why are the leaks coming out now? i think there's a couple of reasons. one is obviously what's going on between israel and iran over the nuclear program . next week is the u.n. general assembly . and i think we read that iran is claiming that the u.s. has barred 20 iranian officials from traveling to the u.s. for that. so there's a lot of things going on. and one of the things we heard was that this most recent round of attacks was to send a message to the u.s. related to what's happening at the general assembly next week.
>> so if they are doing this now, what happens if tensions escalate between israel and iran into some type of attack and all-out war, so to speak? do they have the capability to really go lights out literally?
>> i don't know about lights out literally. i think that might be a stretch. but again, my understanding is they have more capability than slowing web sites or making it difficult for people to log in. one of the fears is that they were launching these attacks as a distraction. and the way it would work is like this. they've already gotten into the banks and they have some kind of malware there and moving around to steal things, to change data, to even plant weapons that could cause damage down the road. so that's one theory. it's unclear if that's true. but that's the concern.
>> jim , thanks for joining us. appreciate it.