The US Department of Justice and Department of the Treasury on Friday charged nine Iranians with carrying out a series of internet attacks on more than 300 universities and 47 companies in the US and overseas, as well as federal and state agencies and the United Nations.
Nine Iranians working on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hacked the computers of 7998 professors at 320 universities around the world over the past 5 years, an indictment filed by a federal grand jury alleges.
The Justice Department said nine of the 10 had been indicted separately for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and other crimes.
Also hacked: 144 U.S-based universities and 176 foreign universities in 21 countries, 50 domestic and foreign private-sector companies, the state of in, the United Nations, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, federal authorities allege.
"What's also interesting about today's indictments is that the 2015 nuclear deal struck between Iran, the US and six other countries lifted crippling economic sanctions in return for the disarmament of their nuclear weapon program", he said. Hackers also targeted the US Labor Department, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the United Nations and the computer systems of the US states Hawaii and IN, prosecutors said.
"The defendants stole research that cost the universities approximately $3.4bn to procure and maintain", he said.
These hackers targeted more than 100,000 email accounts of professors around the world, the DOJ said, successfully compromising 8,000 professor email accounts across more than 325 universities including the U.S., 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.
The action is the fourth time in the past few months that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed a foreign government for major cyber attacks, a practice that was relatively rare under the Obama administration.
The affected professors and universities were not identified.
Other incidents involving Iran!
Geoffrey Berman, US Attorney for the Southern District of NY, said the Iranians conducted spearphishing attacks created to steal passwords from email accounts in one of the "largest state-sponsored" hacking schemes ever uncovered. They are all citizens and residents of Iran.
On Friday, the White House announced criminal charges and sanctions against nine government backed Iranians involved in a hacking scheme.
The Treasury Department also placed sanctions on another Iranian, Behzad Mesri. "They're stealing it, and they're taking credit for it, and they're selling it to others". "These defendants are now fugitives from American justice, no longer free to travel outside Iran without risk of arrest".
The indictment was the latest effort in a years-long strategy by the U.S. to name hackers it believes are working for foreign governments.