United States charges nine Iranians in major hacking plot

US Charges 9 Iranians With Hacking A Wide Range Of US Targets

US busts 'massive' Iranian hacking scheme

Separately, Iran denounced charges and sanctions announced by the United States against nine Iranians and an Iranian company on allegations of attempting to hack into hundreds of universities worldwide, as well as companies and the United States government, on behalf of Tehran.

The US Treasury Department said that it was placing sanctions on the nine accused individuals and the Mabna Institute, a company described by US prosecutors as created to help Iranian research organisations steal information.

The Justice Department said the hackers were affiliated with an Iranian company called the Mabna Institute, which prosecutors say contracted with the Iranian government to steal scientific research from other countries.

Victims of the scheme included approximately 144 universities in the United States, 176 foreign universities in 21 countries, five federal and state government agencies in the United States, 36 private companies in the United States, 11 foreign private companies, and two global non-governmental organizations.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today announced the indictment of nine Iranians accused of perpetrating a large-scale hacking campaign on USA colleges and businesses on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

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The hacking campaign was central to a line of business at Mabna Institute, which acts as a sort of pirated JSTOR for the Iranian academic and research community. 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. "Any nation state, Iran in this case, can say these were rogue groups, but when there is overwhelming proof, the circumstantial evidence can pile up".

Universities from 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 were also affected.

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".

Geoffrey Berman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of NY, said that the attacks constituted "one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice".

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.

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"Since at least approximately 2013, the members of the conspiracy compromised thousands of accounts belonging to professors at victim universities and targeted academic data and intellectual property for theft, which, during the course of the conspiracy, cost the affected United States-based universities at least approximately $3.4 billion dollars to procure and access", the indictment states.

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

In total, prosecutors indicted nine Iranians for participating in the scheme, which continued until at least December 2017, according to a release. Government computers in the state of Hawaii were also illicitly accessed.

"Mabna Institute employees can no longer travel freely, curtailing their career prospects outside of Iran".

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