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U.S. sanctions Iranians for hacking American, foreign colleges

U.S. sanctions Iranians for hacking American, foreign colleges

American justice department authorities on Friday, March 23, said nine Iranians were charged as part of a big state-backed cyber theft campaign targeting several government entities, universities and companies in the U.S. and overseas.

Officials said the Mabna Institute contracted with Tehran and private firms to conduct massive, coordinated cyber intrusions into computer systems belonging to at least 144 USA -based universities and 176 schools in 21 other countries.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein today announced the indictment of nine Iranians accused of perpetrating a large-scale hacking campaign on USA colleges and businesses on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Mabna Institute targeted more than 100,000 professors worldwide and successfully compromised 8,000 of them, said Geoffrey Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY. where the defendants have been charged.

The Justice Department says the hackers stole roughly 31 terabytes of academic research and intellectual property that was then sent to servers outside the United States for profit.

US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the nine Iranians were considered fugitives who may face extradition in more than 100 countries if they travel outside Iran.

They are all citizens and residents of Iran and, because the United States has no extradition agreement, are unlikely to ever stand trial. The Mabna Institute also contracted with Iranian governmental and private entities to conduct hacking activities on its behalf.

Once clicked, the malicious internet domains would display a website pretending to be the login page for the professor's university.

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This is the second time the Justice Department has taken action against Iranian hackers, after prosecutors announced in 2016 that it was charging seven people for attempted cyberattacks against banks and a dam in NY. The indictment alleges that Iranian group members exploited common mistakes among computer users.

In 2014, the Justice Department accused five members of the Chinese military of hacking United States targets and handing stolen intellectual property to Chinese businesses, a line the U.S. says it does not cross. According to the indictment, Gigapaper offered stolen university credentials for sale so customers could directly access the online library resources, like electronic books and LEXIS-NEXIS databases, of United States and foreign universities.

Proponents of those schemes, sometimes called active defense or hacking back, say that companies need some limited hacking power-perhaps a go-ahead to destroy their own data after an adversary has stolen it-in order to deter the most brazen criminal and government-backed hacking campaigns.

The Trump administration has slapped sanctions on an Iranian company and nine Iranians for hacking into American universities. Rosenstein said the stolen information was used or sold by the Iranian government.

In the case of universities, attackers targeted professors with well-crafted phishing attacks.

When the FBI learned of the attacks, FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said in a news conference Friday, "we notified the victims so they could take action to minimize the impact".

"It is not certain that a U.S. withdrawal from the accord would necessarily cause its collapse because Iran and the other parties to the accord will try to continue implementing it", the private intelligence Soufan Center report said.

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