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DOJ Indicts Nine Iranians for “Massive” Hacking Attack against U.S. Universities

The United States Department of Justice announced indictments of nine Iranians for their participation in a “massive and brazen cyber-assault” on over 100 American academic institutions and several government agencies, Politico reported Friday.

The Iranian hackers were affiliated with the Mabna Institute, which, according to DOJ, was established in 2013 “to assist Iranian universities and scientific and research organizations in stealing access to non-Iranian scientific resources.” The hackers working for the Mabna Institute are charged with stealing over 31 terabytes of data worth an estimated $3.4 billion from 144 American academic institutions over a four-year period ending in December 2017.

In addition to universities, the Mabna hackers attacked the state governments of Hawaii and Indiana, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Labor. The group also attacked the United Nations and the U.N. Children’s Fund according to the DOJ statement announcing the indictments.

The hacking ring was described as a “massive and brazen cyber-assault” and “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted” by the U.S. according to Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Two years ago, the Justice Department indicted seven Iranians for carrying out cyber-attacks against dozens of American banks as well as a dam located in upstate New York. The hackers were identified as working for private security firms on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

In November 2015, shortly after the nuclear deal was agreed to, the U.S. reported that Iranian cyber-espionage activities were increasingly aggressive and included attacks on the State Department.

In December of last year, a report released by FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, characterized Iranian hacking attempts as a “coordinated, probably military, endeavor.”


[Photo: Coolcaesar / WikiCommons ]