USA charges nine Iranians suspected of hacking universities

USA charges nine Iranians suspected of hacking universities

USA charges nine Iranians suspected of hacking universities

A series of federal indictments and financial sanctions against Iranian individuals were announced by Deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, charging cyber activity against the United States.

The defendants are unlikely to ever be prosecuted in an American courtroom since there's no extradition treaty with Iran.

In addition to the university account hacks, at least 36 US businesses had accounts compromised-as did state agencies of Hawaii and IN, the US Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the United Nations, and the United Nations Children's Fund.

"Iran condemns the United States' provocative, illegal, and unjustified actions, which are a major new sign of the hostility and animosity of US leaders towards the Iranian people", Qasemi said in a statement on the ministry's website.

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 United States jurisdiction and prohibits USA persons from doing business with them.

Though the Iran-based hackers were outside the immediate reach of authorities in the US, Rosenstein said at least their public identification and imposing consequences would deal a heavy blow to the state-sponsored computer hackings.

Geoffrey Berman, the USA attorney for the Southern District of NY, in a statement called it a "massive and brazen cyberassault" and "one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted" by US officials.

Mabna Institute employees and contractors "engaged in the theft of valuable intellectual property and data from hundreds of USA and third-country universities.for private financial gain", the Treasury said. They were able to steal 15 billion pages of academic research that was then sold outside the U.S. for profit.

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At a news conference today, Rosenstein said the Justice Department is "working with foreign law enforcement agencies and providing the private sector with information that will help to neutralize Mabna's hacking infrastructure".

Ghassemi called on the U.S. to provide evidence for its allegations, otherwise the charges are nothing more than a "gimmick aimed at stopping or preventing the scientific growth of the Iranian people".

Over those years, the indicted Mabna hackers breached the email accounts of roughly 8,000 professors.

The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, unauthorized access of a computer, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

"The defendants targeted data across all fields of research and academic disciplines, including science and technology, engineering, social sciences, medical, and other professional fields", it said.

The Mabna Institute is accused of stealing 31 terabytes of "valuable intellectual property and data".

The affected professors and universities were not identified.

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control issued sanctions against the Iranians on Friday.

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