U.S. cautions financial Web sites against unconfirmed cyber threat

Thursday, November 30th 2006, 8:24 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government issued an alert Thursday to U.S. stock market and banking Web sites about a possible Internet attack from a radical Muslim group, but said the threat was unconfirmed and seemed to pose no immediate danger.

The notice was issued after officials noticed a posting on a ``Jihadist Web site'' calling for an attack on American financial web sites in December, said Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke.

``There is no information to corroborate this aspirational threat,'' Knocke said, adding that the alert was issued ``as a routine matter and out of an abundance of caution. There is no immediate threat to our homeland at this time.''

The Web site calls for attacks against American economic sites in retaliation for Muslims being held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which houses prisoners accused of ties to terrorism groups, said another government official.

The site called for attackers to use viruses that can penetrate Internet sites and destroy data stored there.

The alert was issued by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, a partnership between private officials and the Homeland Security Department that warns Internet sites against virus outbreaks and other Internet attacks.

Spokespeople for the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq declined to comment on the cyber-terror threat.

Stock exchanges and financial institutions strengthened physical security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and banned together to enhance protection of data and information technology. The collapse of the World Trade Center initially severed communication between Wall Street firms and their data centers.

The Securities Industry Automation Corp., a data technology subsidiary of the NYSE and American Stock Exchange, immediately went to work in trying to shore up Wall Street's vulnerability. The company formed SFTI, known in the industry as ``safety,'' which acts almost as a traffic cop for data streams in case the system is overloaded.

SFTI currently ensures, and protects, data transferred by all the major U.S. stock markets. Each stock market also has its own firewalls, many of which were beefed up after the attacks.