The US on Friday announced sanctions against nine Iranians and an Iranian company for attempting to hack into hundreds of universities worldwide, including in Ireland, on behalf of Tehran's government.
Today, the Department of Justice announced charges against nine Iranian nationals connected to the Mabna Institute, a company which an Federal Bureau of Investigation spokesman said was "created in 2013 for the express goal of illegally gaining access to non-Iranian scientific resources through computer intrusions".
The two founders of the Mabna Institute, Gholamreza Rafatnejad, 38, and Ehsan Mohammadi, 37, were among the nine Iranians indicted in NY and whose assets are subject to USA seizure.
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.
"'These nine Iranian nationals allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of documents and data from more than 140 American universities, 30 American companies, five American government agencies, and also more than 176 universities in 21 foreign countries", Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a press release.
According to USA officials, the charged individuals, as well as the organisation they work for, the Mabna Institute, will also be hit with economic sanctions. 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 information that was stolen, which was sold through two websites to customers in Iran, cost USA universities about $3.4 billion to procure and access.
100,000 professors around the world were targeted and around half worked at USA universities. 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. "That information was used by the Revolutionary Guard or sold for profit in Iran".
Last week, the Trump administration formally accused Russian government hackers of a massive, sophisticated, and multipronged attempt to infiltrate the United States power grid.
Federal officials announced indictments and sanctions in a hacking prosecution involving the theft of $4.2 billion in research data and intellectual property by individuals linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The affected professors and their universities were not identified. He also said the Treasury Department has taken action to limit the ability of the defendants to conduct financial transactions or do business outside of Iran. The president may withdraw the United States from the agreement. They pretended to be professors at other schools expressing interest in their academic articles, the indictment stated.
Rosenstein said the defendants are now fugitives and risk arrest and extradition if they travel to any of the more than 100 countries that do have extradition agreements with the US. Those hackers were also accused of working on behalf of Iran's government.