United States sanctions Iranians for hacking American, foreign colleges

25 March, 2018, 00:54 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Former US ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Saturday

Nine Iranian nationals connected to a government-linked institute that allegedly specialized in hacking were charged Friday in Manhattan federal court with a wide-ranging cyber-conspiracy that pilfered valuable academic research from 144 US universities.

The hackers conducted "many" of the intrusions "on behalf of" Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, "as well as other Iranian government and university clients", according to DOJ.

They worked for the Iran-based Mabna Institute, which was also sanctioned by Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control today along with the nine defendants.

The Justice Department said the hackers were affiliated with an Iranian organization called the Mabna Institute, founded by two of the defendants, which prosecutors said contracted with the Iranian government to steal scientific research from other countries.

On top of targeting 144 USA -based academic institutions, the hackers allegedly breached the systems of at least 176 universities across 21 countries, in Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Rosenstein even said that the acts were carried out at the behest of the government of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In a brief statement issued Friday, the state said "unusual activity" linked to the Iranian hacking was limited to 37 email accounts.

Nine hackers hired by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard have been indicted by the USA after stealing as much as $4 billion worth of highly sensitive academic research from top universities in Britain, the U.S. and Europe.


No group claimed responsibility for the attack targeting Iranian newspapers. 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.

In addition to the universities, Washington said the hacking also affected 47 domestic and foreign private-sector companies, as well as the US Department of Labour, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the states of Hawaii and IN, the United Nations and the UN Children's Fund.

USA authorities believe that the cyber attacks have been state-sponsored, to the extent of being one of the largest state-sponsored hacking sprees to be prosecuted.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump announced he will replace National Security Adviser HR McMaster with John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations who has encouraged the use of force against Iran.

The Justice Department says the hackers stole roughly 31 terabytes of academic research and intellectual property that was then sent to servers outside the United States for profit. Federal agents said the hackers gained access to university databases and college library systems by using stolen login credentials belonging to university professors.

Those efforts successfully garnered the credentials for about 8,000 logins around the world, again with about half of those at United States universities.

The Obama administration in 2016 indicted seven Iranians for distributed-denial-of-service attacks on dozens of U.S. banks and for trying to shut down a NY dam.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the nine Iranians were considered fugitives who may face extradition in more than 100 countries if they travel outside of Iran.

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