Iranians Cyber-attacked College Professors, Government Agencies and Companies: Justice Department

Nine Iranians were charged Friday by the Justice Department over a wide-ranging scheme to hack and steal electronic data from universities, private corporations and U.S. government entities to benefit the government of Iran, CNBC reported.

The Iranians were indicted on seven counts surrounding an alleged long-term and large-scale hacking campaign, with charges including identity theft and “conspiracy to commit computer intrusions.”

The individuals allegedly accessed the computer systems of U.S. universities through duplicitous electronic contacts, a scheme known as phishing. They targeted more than 100,000 professor email accounts at 144 American universities through the phishing campaign, the indictment said.

The activity, which had allegedly been conducted since 2013, could cost universities $3.4 billion.

“That type of criminal activity does not just cause economic harm,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said Friday. “It also threatens our national security. Identifying and prosecuting computer hackers is a priority for the Department of Justice.”

The nine defendants were allegedly affiliated with the so-called Mabna Institute and acted at the behest of one of Iran’s intelligence gathering entities.

They also allegedly targeted and compromised at least 36 U.S.-based private companies, and at least 11 such companies based in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

And the indictment counts at least five government agencies, including the Labor Department, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the United Nations, among the victims of the hacking campaign.

None of the individuals have yet been arrested, and the DOJ now describes them as “fugitives from justice.”

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