Trump administration charges Iranians for international cyber theft

The cyber attack pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 US universities and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries.
The cyber attack pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 US universities and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, AFP) - The Trump administration on Friday (March 23) charged nine Iranians and an Iranian company with attempting to hack into hundreds of US and international universities, dozens of companies and parts of the US government on behalf of the Iranian government.

The cyber attack pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 US universities and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

The US Treasury Department said on its website that it was placing sanctions on those accused and the Mabna Institute, a company described by US prosecutors as designed to help Iranian research organizations steal information.

The two founders of the Mabna Institute were among the 10 people whose assets are subject to US seizure, it said.  The Justice Department said nine of the 10 had been indicted separately for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and other crimes. 

Since 2013, the Mabna Institute carried out cyber intrusions into the computer systems of 144 US universities, the Treasury Department said, and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries. 

“For many of these intrusions, the defendants acted at the behest of the Iranian government and, specifically, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement. 

“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,” Rosenstein added.