Keith Alexander quit NSA and co-founded Iron Net Cybersecurity Inc … no website could be found.Keith Alexander

The hackers who attacked JPMorgan, the biggest U.S. bank, were “a group with exceptional skills or a nation-state backed group,” Alexander said in an interview yesterday at Bloomberg’s Washington bureau.


The attack occurred last month and resulted in the loss of gigabytes of sensitive data, said the people familiar with the investigation. Authorities are investigating whether recent infiltrations of major European banks using a similar vulnerability are linked to the attack, one of the people said.


Security experts say the sophistication of the attacks appeared to be beyond the capability of ordinary criminal hackers. The incidents occurred at a low point in relations with Russia as the West tightens sanctions aimed at crippling Russian companies, including some of the country’s most important banks, over its suspected support for Ukrainian rebels.


JPMorgan spokeswoman Patricia Wexler declined to comment on Alexander’s claims. She noted that the company in statements it issued last week said it is cooperating with investigators, has enhanced its security and hasn’t seen any unusual fraud levels. FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell declined to comment on Alexander’s assessment.

“If you can steal the data — if you can reach in that far and steal it — you can do anything else you want,” he said. “You collapse one bank and our financial structure collapses.”

JPMorgan Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon, 58, has warned shareholders in annual letters that hackers’ efforts to breach the bank’s computers were growing more frequent, sophisticated and dangerous. The bank expects to boost annual spending on cybersecurity by 25 percent to about $250 million by the end of the year from 2013 levels, he wrote in April.


Hackers who stole gigabytes of data from JPMorgan Chase & Co. may have been trying to send a message that U.S. financial institutions can be disrupted, the former director of the National Security Agency said.