The Justice Department today charged nine Iranians with a massive hacking campaign targeting, among others, 320 universities in 22 countries. According to prosecutors, the campaign was part of a state-sponsored attempt to steal information on science and technology that reached 144 American universities.
The hackers allegedly worked through an Iranian organization called the Mabna Institute, and from there, compromised the email accounts of 8,000 academics and also targeted US government entities, including the Department of Labor, United Nations, and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. In all, more than 31 terabytes of data was stolen in the campaign, in what a US attorney characterized as “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
The stolen information was then either used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard or was sold, prosecutors said. The FBI says it has informed victims of the hacks.
The nine people were indicted on charges including computer fraud and conspiracy but are believed to still be in Iran and out of reach of US law enforcement. Officials are also imposing financial sanctions on the alleged hackers.
“The events described in this indictment highlight the need for universities and other organizations to emphasize cyber security, increase threat awareness, and harden their computer networks,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said.