Security software giant McAfee has issued a white paper warning of an impending attack on U.S. financial institutions in 2013.  Following up on denial of service attacks that his U.S. banks in September and October, hackers in Russia believed to be behind an anticipated cyberattack dubbed “Project Blitzkrieg” have threatened a large scale distributed attack targeting 30 U.S. banks to be launched in the Spring of 2013.  While Russian authorities and a number of security analysts initially dismissed the claims as implausible, McAfee now calls Project Blitzkrieg a “credible threat.” 

Noting that Project Blitzkrieg “appears to be moving forward as planned,” the white paper indicates that, “[a]lthough Project Blitzkrieg hasn’t yet infected thousands of victims and we cannot directly confirm any cases of fraud, the attackers have managed to run an operation undetected for several months while infecting a few hundred.” Project Blitzkrieg is believed to involve distributed Trojan Horse attacks on individual PCs that implant software allowing the hackers to access and steal users’ information and money.  Moreover, rather than use a shotgun blast approach to infect users’ computers, the hackers behind Project Blitzkrieg appear to be selectively targeting accounts at investment banks, consumer banks, and credit unions, with a special focus on high value investment bank accounts. 

McAfee also warns that the attacks may focus on smaller banking institutions:  “Project Blitzkrieg has boosted the use of Gozi by including features such as victim-machine cloning to avoid fraud detection systems and targeting smaller financial institutions in the hope of exploiting their lack of expertise in dealing with such incidents.”  As McAfee warns, financial institutions need to be prepared to respond to and deter cyberattacks from any number of sources.