San Francisco, Sep 17 | The US has filed charges against two Iranian nationals in connection with an alleged cyber intrusion campaign, sometimes at the behest of the Iran government and sometimes for private financial gain.
The hackers targeted computers in New Jersey, elsewhere in the US, Europe and the Middle East, the US Department of Justice said on Wednesday.
According to an indictment, prosecutors accused Hooman Heidarian, 30, and Mehdi Farhadi, 34, both of Hamedan, Iran, of stealing hundreds of terabytes of data.
These typically included confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information, and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research.
In some instances, the hacks were politically motivated or at the behest of Iran, including instances where they obtained information regarding dissidents, human rights activists, and opposition leaders, according to the allegations.
In other instances, the defendants sold the hacked data and information in the black market for private financial gain
“We will not bring the rule of law to cyberspace until governments refuse to provide safe harbour for criminal hacking within their borders,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, our cases demonstrate that at least four nations — Iran, China, Russia and North Korea — will allow criminal hackers to victimise individuals and companies from around the world, as long as these hackers will also work for that country’s government – gathering information on human rights activists, dissidents and others of intelligence interest.”
According to the indictment, beginning in at least 2013, the defendants were responsible for a coordinated campaign of cyber intrusions into computer systems in New Jersey and around the world.
The victims included several American and foreign universities, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, a defence contractor, an aerospace company, a foreign policy organization, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), non-profits, and foreign government and other entities the defendants identified as rivals or adversaries to Iran, it alleged.