Major banks probed for revenge-hacking Iran

The FBI is investigating whether several major U.S. banks plotted last year to launch a counterassault on Iran for cyberattacks that temporarily shut down their websites in 2012.

Several major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, reportedly met in February 2013 to discuss retaliation for the cyberattacks the previous year that were aimed at crippling their networks, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. A bank spokeswoman told Bloomberg no action was taken. 

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Still, the FBI is looking into whether the financial institutions targeted servers used in the hacking, which the U.S. attributed to Iran. 

“The FBI cautions private-sector entities from taking offensive measures in response to being hacked,” FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer told Bloomberg, declining to comment on any investigation.

Bloomberg noted that gaining unauthorized access to computers is prohibited by the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and hacking across international borders requires presidential approval, based on a White House directive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked last year.

Companies are increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks, including from hackers working for foreign countries. The FBI believes hackers linked to North Korea stole and published online troves of data and emails from Sony Pictures. 

President Obama promised a “proportional response” to the hack, though what measures the U.S. will take remain unclear. Some speculated that intermittent Internet outages in the isolated country shortly after the president's proclamation were linked to a U.S. response.

“It's kind of a Wild West right now,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told Bloomberg regarding firms that might go on the offensive without permission from the U.S. government.

“They're very frustrated,” McCaul added.