JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) experienced a website outage lasting for several hours this past Friday, and the bank doesn't know why it happened yet, but it does know the question on everyone's mind: Was this yet another "hacktivist" attack on a big American bank?
Nothing to see here, folks
A JPMorgan spokesperson told American Banker, which broke the story, that the bank is back to "normal response times now" and is investigating what happened.
This follows closely on the heels of another recent big-bank website outage: On February 1, Bank of America's (NYSE:BAC) mobile and online banking services went down for half the day. Both incidents left customers unable to access their accounts.
Or is there something to see?
An unnamed B of A source told American Banker that its recent web-service interruption was due to internal problems, and it very well may have been. And last Friday's JPMorgan incident might turn out to be a purely internal issue, as well.
But these outages are very similar to a series of confirmed cyber assaults that took place last year, with the self-described hacktivist group "Alqassam Cyberfighters" claiming responsibility for said assaults, which occurred at several of the country's biggest banks.
The attacks are what's known as Distributed Denial of Service attacks and have potentially frightening implications for both consumers and investors. I covered this recently in a longer piece, but in a nutshell, who wants to keep their money or investments somewhere (1) they potentially can't access it 24/7 or (2) where people fear they might be electronically stolen or "erased" from bank records?
Banks that can't assure customers their money is safe aren't going to be around for very long. And we haven't even talked about what would happen if ATMs went down nationwide at one of these big banks. People would lose their minds. Not being able to check the balance in your checking account for a time is one thing, but not having access to your cash is quite another.
In addition to JPMorgan and B of A, Citigroup (NYSE:C) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) were also hit last year by cyber assaults. The idea that these giant banks are susceptible at all to hacktivist attack is unnerving to me, to say the least. These banks should be sparing no expense to secure their customers' accounts as well as their own. There's too much at stake.