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Tuesday
Oct042011

Bank of America under Hacker Attack?

Davis Turner/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Bank of America’s homepage is suffering serious disruption for a third consecutive business day.

The nation’s largest bank by deposits, with 12 percent of Americans’ bank accounts and over a trillion dollars in deposits, told ABC News “the cause is still under review, but we have ruled out hacking, malware, or any link to the debit fee. We have not said the issues were due to volume either.”

The outages, which includes the bank’s hobbled home page as well as delays and difficulty in accessing online banking, began Friday morning, a day after the bank announced it would charge a $5 monthly fee for account holders using their debit cards.

Despite repeated requests from ABC News, the bank has refused to explain the source of these now chronic service problems.

Cyber-security experts say the only explanation for outages on four of five consecutive days is a so-called denial of service attack.

“The only reasonable conclusion is that they are under attack,” says Steve Gibson, an Internet security expert. "A site of that size should be expected to handle huge volume with no trouble at all…the only time we ever see anything like this is when some major site has upset a group of hackers.”

Denial of service attacks occur when a site is inundated with an enormous number of apparently legitimate requests. It explains why the site’s homepage alone seems to be suffering the brunt of the disruptions.

“What’s scary,” says Gibson, “is that it only takes the whim of a teenager to take a site like this off line,” explaining that denial of service attacks are relatively simple to engineer.

Still, the timing of the situation -- coming after customer outrage over the new debit card fee -- is raising eyebrows.

Bank of America says it would waive that fee for those with “Premium” accounts – which require a minimum monthly balance of $5000.

And the latest to join the bonanza of fee hikes is Citibank, which last week vowed to ABC News it “has absolutely no intention of charging our customers for debit cards.”  It is now telling some customers it will charge them $15 monthly for checking accounts unless they maintain a balance of at least $6,000.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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