Iranians charged with massive hacking of 320 universities in the US

Iranians charged with massive hacking of 320 universities in the US

Iranians charged with massive hacking of 320 universities in the US

The U.S. Justice Department on Friday revealed charges against an Iranian hacking ring that prosecutors say spent years pilfering research and documents from over 300 universities worldwide as well as several U.S. government agencies.

In a parallel statement, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control said it has added one Iranian entity (the Mabna Institute) and ten Iranian individuals (the nine defendants among them) to its Specially Designated Nationals List, which blocks their interest in property under USA jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from doing business with them.

Rafatnejad, Mohammadi and the seven other Mabna Institute employees or contractors were charged with identity theft, conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and other crimes.

Since 2013, Rosenstein said, Mabna has hacked 144 American universities, 47 companies around the world, the United Nations, and several U.S. government targets, including the Department of Labor and the states of Hawaii and Indiana.

"By bringing these criminal charges, we reinforce the norm that most of the civilized world accepts: Nation-states should not steal intellectual property for the goal of giving domestic industries an advantage", Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the charges.

The Justice Department said the hackers stole roughly 31 terabytes of academic research and intellectual property that was then sent to servers outside the United States for profit.

The indictment also lays out new economic sanctions aimed at both the nine individuals as well as the Shiraz-based Mabna Institute.

According to the indictment, the group also compromised the computer systems of "at least five US federal and state government agencies, at least 36 private sector companies, and at least two non-governmental organizations" though it's not clear to what extent those systems were breached or what if any data was stolen.

According to the Justice Department, the value of the information they stole from USA universities alone was $3.4billion.

"These allegations against employees of an Iranian IT company are groundless and merely reflect the U.S. government's resentment of Iran", he said. When a professor would click on the replica links and then enter login information, hackers would capture the credentials and use them to access the university computer systems.

Nine Iranian nationals have been charged with conducting a massive cyber theft campaign on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corops, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. These links were in fact to a site on "a malicious Internet domain named to appear confusingly similar to the authentic domain of the recipient professor's university", the indictment states.

On Friday, the White House announced criminal charges and sanctions against nine government backed Iranians involved in a hacking scheme.

USA law enforcement agencies indicted other employees of the Mabna Institute in November 2017 for the hack and leak operation against TV company HBO. Mr Rosenstein said they may face extradition in more than 100 countries if they travel outside of Iran.

"And, thanks to the Treasury Department, the defendants will find it hard to engage in business or financial transactions outside of Iran". They are all citizens and residents of Iran.

Jake Williams, a cybersecurity expert and Army veteran, spoke out against the moves on Twitter, saying the USA itself may be crossing a line by charging private contractors that work on behalf of their governments. Those hackers were also accused of working on behalf of Iran's government.

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