The US is charging 9 Iranians with hacking major American universities on behalf of the Iranian government

  • The Department of Justice on Friday announced charges against nine Iranians in connection with an elaborate hacking scheme that targeted more than 140 US universities.
  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the charges in a press conference.

The US charged nine Iranians with orchestrating cyberattacks against more than 350 entities around the world, mostly universities, on behalf of the Iranian government, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced Friday.

Those charged include Gholamreza Rafatnejad, 38; Ehsan Mohammadi, 37; Abdollah Karima, also known as Vahid Karima, 39; Mostafa Sadeghi, 28; Seyed Ali Mirkarimi, 34; Mohammed Reza Sabahi, 26; Roozbeh Sabahi, 24; Abuzar Gohari Moqadam, 37; and Sajjad Tahmasebi, 30. They are all citizens and residents of Iran.

The defendants were all connected to the Mabna Institute, an Iranian company that has conducted cyberattacks on more than 360 entities, including 144 universities in the US and 176 elsewhere, 47 domestic and foreign private companies, and government bodies such as the US Department of Labour and the United Nations.

The indictment charges the defendants with stealing more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from the universities, worth more than $US3 billion.

The Treasury Department levied sanctions against the Mabna Institute and the defendants, which came in addition to the criminal charges filed by the Justice Department.

“For many of these intrusions, the defendants acted at the behest of the Iranian government and, specifically, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Rosenstein said in a press conference. “The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate and prosecute hostile actors who attempt to profit from America’s ideas by infiltrating our computer systems and stealing intellectual property. This case is important because it will disrupt the defendants’ hacking operations and deter similar crimes.”

The defendants were charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, and identity theft. Rosenstein said the stolen information was used or sold by the Iranian government.