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As cyberattack eases, online access to PNC improves

Cyber attacks such as the one that blocked PNC Bank customers from online accounts this week rarely linger more than a week, experts said.

Yet early Friday some PNC customers reported intermittent difficulty accessing bank accounts. By the afternoon, online accessibility had increased, PNC said on Twitter and its website.

“How long these go on can vary. They just continue until the adversary stops it,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of CrowdStrike, an Irvine, Calif., company that researches such attacks.

“… Typically it’s not weeks,” Alperovitch said.

The cyber attacks began last week with JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citibank. They spread this week to Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and PNC, where spokesman Fred Solomon could not be reached for comment.

PNC said little publicly about the “denial-of-service” attack, which some experts called one of the biggest of its kind to hit a U.S. institution. In such an episode, an attacker directs traffic to a website to overwhelm the system and prevent customers from gaining access.

“PNC is not the only bank to be attacked by this adversary,” said Martin Lindner, principal engineer at the CERT program at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, which researches Internet security for the government.

“So far, the (pattern) has been they go away in a day,” Lindner said. “The expectation is that the adversary will move on to somebody else.”

A group called the Cyber Fighters of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam claimed responsibility for the bank attacks on an Internet message board. No one verified the claim.

The Department of Homeland Security’s cyber security division declined to comment.

“No one is stealing anybody’s money, and it’s not having a real financial impact of national significance,” Lindner said.

PNC’s customer service hot line experienced “longer-than-usual wait times,” said a PNC message on its website Friday. Another PNC message said customer account information was secure and all other banking systems worked properly.

PNC advised customers to visit automated teller machines or bank branches.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or at [email protected].


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