The relationship between Iran and the United States has been contentious for a long time and it is not getting better anytime soon. The current White House administration has made it clear they will not be partaking in any type of détente anytime soon and that they are vehemently opposed to the nuclear agreement made with them some time ago. A more recent announcement regarding Iran from the United States seems to confirm this analysis.
This past week the Trump administration announced that they would be filing criminal charges and implementing sanctions against nine different Iranian individuals who are being accused of government-sponsored criminal hacking in a scheme to try and pilfer sensitive and classified information from over 100 American universities, government agencies, as well as private companies.
The following was reported on their actions,
“The nine defendants, accused of working at the behest of the Iranian government-tied Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, hacked the computer systems of about 320 universities in the United States and abroad to steal expensive science and engineering research that was then used or sold for profit, prosecutors said.
The hackers also are accused of breaking into the networks of dozens of government organizations, such as the Department of Labor, the United Nations and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and companies including law firms and biotechnology corporations. The Justice Department said the hackers were affiliated with an Iranian company called the Mabna Institute, which prosecutors say contracted since at least 2013 with the Iranian government to steal scientific research from other countries.
“By bringing these criminal charges, we reinforce the norm that most of the civilized world accepts: nation-states should not steal intellectual property for the purpose of giving domestic industries an advantage,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the charges.Also Friday, the Treasury Department targeted the Mabna Institute and 10 Iranians — the nine defendants and one charged in a separate case last year — for sanctions that will bar them from doing business in the United States.”
Because there is no extradition treaty between Iran and the United States these individuals will likely never see American soil or an American courtroom. Despite the fact that the grand jury indictment was filed in federal court in Manhattan, New York City, New York. The purpose behind it though is the government attempt to publicly identify criminal foreign hackers and then prevent them from trying to enter the United States. Moreover, when they try to travel to countries that do have extradition treaties with the United States they are more likely to get these people because their name will be on the international register.
This strategy has also been used against Chinese military officials who have perpetrated large-scale hacks at energy companies as well as Russian operatives who have breached Yahoo accounts. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich commented on it saying, “people travel. They take vacations, they make plans with their families. Having your name, face and description on a ‘wanted’ poster makes moving freely much more difficult.”
In the case of the Iranians, they were able to succeed at their hacking attempts by breaking into the accounts of professors at universities and sending them links that were compromised and getting them to click on them. These emails were high-level spam phishing attempts that appeared authentic at first glance but in reality, were compromised and put their servers at risk which the Iranians took advantage of.
Hawaii News reported on it as well because some of the information the state of Hawaii collected regarding Iranian hacking was included in the nine person indictment this past week in New York,
“Hawaii state computers were targeted as part of a massive Iranian computer hacking campaign that also compromised U.S. and foreign universities, private companies and federal agencies, a federal indictment alleges. In a brief statement issued Friday, the state said “unusual activity” linked to the Iranian hacking was limited to 37 email accounts.
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