The Trump administration on Friday announced sanctions and criminal indictments against an Iranian hacker network it said was involved in “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns” ever prosecuted by the United States, targeting hundreds of U.S. and foreign universities, as well as dozens of U.S. companies and government agencies, and the United Nations.
None of the alleged hackers were direct employees of the Iranian government, but all worked at the behest of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), officials said. While not the first such punishments imposed on Iran for malicious cyber acts, the new measures address more extensive Iranian efforts than previously alleged.
Nine of 10 named individuals were connected to the Mabna Institute, a Shiraz-based tech firm that the Justice Department alleged hacks on behalf of Iranian universities and the IRGC. The institute conducted “massive, coordinated intrusions” into the computer systems of at least 144 U.S. universities and 176 foreign universities in 21 countries, including Britain and Canada, officials said.
They stole more than 31 terabytes of data and intellectual property – the rough equivalent of three Libraries of Congress – from their victims, prosecutors alleged. Much of it ended up in the hands of the IRGC, which has frequently been accused of stealing information to further its own research and development of weaponry. The Guard Corps is the division of Iran’s security forces charged with overseeing Iranian proxy forces abroad and is under the direct control of the country’s religious leaders.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Ellen Nakashima, Karen DeYoung