US indicts and sanctions Iranian firm, nine nationals for hacking universities
One US official described it as “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted in America”.world Updated: Mar 24, 2018 16:08 IST
The US on Friday announced sanctions and criminal indictments against an Iranian company and nine individuals, accusing them of hacking hundreds of universities in America and abroad, private and government entities, and the UN.
One US official described it as “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted in America”.
Those indicted were Mabna Institute — a Teheran-based privately held entity — and nine people described as “leaders, contractors, associates, hackers-for-hire, and affiliates”. Though they were not employed by the Iranian government, US officials said they carried out these “intrusions” on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), one of several entities within the government of Iran responsible for gathering intelligence, as well as other government clients.
The justice department said in a statement that starting in 2013, the hacker network targeted computer systems belonging to 144 US-based universities, 176 universities across 21 foreign countries, 47 domestic and foreign private sector companies, the US labour department, the federal energy regulatory commission, the states of Hawaii and Indiana, the United Nations, and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
“These nine Iranian nationals allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of documents and data,” deputy attorney general Rod J Rosenstein said, announcing the indictment. “For many of these intrusions, the defendants acted at the behest of the Iranian government and, specifically, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.”
“The hackers targeted innovations and intellectual property from our country’s greatest minds,” Manhattan US attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement. “These defendants are now fugitives from American justice, no longer free to travel outside Iran without risk of arrest. The only way they will see the outside world is through their computer screens, but stripped of their greatest asset – anonymity.”
Officials said that while apprehending the indicted individuals will be a challenge, they will remain vulnerable to arrest and extradition to the United States whenever they travelled abroad.