Czech banks, stock exchange hit by hackers

By bne IntelliNews March 7, 2013

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Two days after a wide-scale hacking attack on several of the country's top media outlets, the Czech Republic's largest commercial banks, as well the central bank and stock exchange were knocked offline on March 6.

The Czech National Bank and Prague Stock Exchange had their online services back up by the afternoon of March 6 after disappearing earlier in the day. The central bank - as well as the commercial lenders - insisted that banking client data were not threatened, and the stock exchange said that trading was not interrupted.

When a number of the largest Czech media outlets suffered an attack on March 4, the victims said it appeared the hackers were located within the Czech Republic, according to Dow Jones. However, commenting on the attack on the banks, police said they were unable to confirm the location of the hackers, adding only that all the cases are being analyzed.

CSOB said the cyber attack that disabled its online services in the morning had come from abroad, according to Reuters. The website of the country's largest bank became operational again after CSOB blocked access to it from countries from which the attack came, it said, without disclosing which countries those were. The website of CSOB's sister bank in Slovakia was also hacked, but was functioning as normal later in the day, spokeswoman Zuzana Eliasova said.

The hackers appear to be using a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, which inundates servers with requests, said central bank spokesman Marek Petrus. "It's a problem of external servers. Our web hosting provider is trying to put us back online," he said, adding that the attacks had not jeopardized financial accounts at any of the banks or the stock exchange.

In a separate statement, the CNB said it, "communicated with the public through its official profiles on Twitter and Facebook while the site was displaying incorrectly and could not be updated." It added that its "internal IT systems operated throughout the day without any disruptions."

"The hacking does not impact trading as the stock exchange's web page is not connected to trading platform," said Jiri Kovarik, spokesman at the Prague Stock Exchange.

The large commercial banks - all owned by Eurozone banking groups - lined up to report that although their websites were down, disrupting online banking services, there was no security breach.

Confirming that several of its websites were hit, Komercni Banka insisted: "In no case has there been any loss of client data. At the current moment we are intensively working on counter-measures which will enable us to restore services for our clients." Ceska Sporitelna spokesman Marek Psenicny said the bank's website and internet banking were down but internal system were in order. "Client data are certainly not threatened. We are investigating the cause and for the time being we have no details," he said.

The attacks against the Czech newspapers earlier in the week were part of a rising wave of hacking affecting media outlets around the world, which some claim is part of a campaign to censor news. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both said that cyber attacks against them in January originated in China.

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