REUTERS - A financial services industry group warned banks on Wednesday to be on heightened alert for cyber attacks after Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase experienced unexplained outages on their public websites.
The warning, from the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, cited "recent credible intelligence regarding the potential" for cyber attacks as the reason for raising the threat level to "high" from "elevated."
Earlier on Wednesday the consumer banking website of JPMorgan Chase & Co was intermittently unavailable to some customers. The problems followed issues with the website of Bank of America Corp on Tuesday amid threats on the Internet that a group was planning to launch cyber attacks on a U.S. bank.
JPMorgan Chase spokesman Patrick Linehan said, "We're experiencing intermittent issues with Chase.com. We apologize for any inconvenience and are working to restore full connectivity.
A Bank of America spokesman reported no continuing problems on Wednesday. "Our online banking services have been, and are, up and running," Mark Pipitone said. "The vast majority of our customers have not experienced any issues."
The short advisory from the industry group urged banks and other industry members to "ensure constant diligence in monitoring and quick response to any malicious events."
The Reston, Virginia-based group is owned by its members, which include the two banks, as well as Citigroup Inc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Morgan Stanley.
The advisory also cited a warning from Microsoft Corp that hackers have attacked some of its customers due to a security bug in its widely used Internet Explorer browser.
Microsoft has yet to release software to fix that security flaw. The German government advised the public to stop using Internet Explorer until an update is released. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has advised users to follow steps recommended by Microsoft to reduce the risk of attacks but noted that those measures may not fully secure the browser.
Officials with the financial services group could not immediately be reached to comment on the decision to raise its cyber threat level. A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security declined to comment on the advisory from the industry group.
The problems at the banks came after someone claiming to represent "cyber fighters of Izz ad-din Al qassam" said on the Internet it would attack Bank of America and the New York Stock Exchange (NYX.N) as a "first step" in a campaign against properties of "American-Zionist Capitalists."
"This attack will continue until the Erasing of that nasty movie. Beware this attack can vary in type," said the statement on an internet bulletin board known as pastebin.com, where hackers often post such threats. It was not possible to verify the identity of the person who posted the statement. Nor was it clear if the threat had anything to do with the issues at either of the two banks.
A short film mocking the Prophet Mohammad, made with private funds in the United States and posted on the Internet, has ignited days of demonstrations in the Arab world, Africa, Asia and in some Western countries.