(September 17, 2020 / JNS) Two Iranian nationals have been federally charged in connection with a coordinated cyber-intrusion campaign—sometimes at the behest of the Iranian government—allegedly targeting computers in New Jersey, elsewhere in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, announced the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday.
Hooman Heidarian, 30, and Mehdi Farhadi, 34, both of Hamedan, Iran, were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and related activity in connection with computers and access devices; unauthorized access to protected computers; unauthorized damage to protected computers; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; and access device fraud; and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
They allegedly stole hundreds of terabytes of data, which typically included confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign-policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human-rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research, according to a 10-count indictment returned on Tuesday.
In some instances, the defendants’ hacks were politically motivated or at the behest of Iran, including instances where they obtained information regarding dissidents, human-rights activists and opposition leaders, according to the indictment. The defendants also sold the hacked data and information on the black market for private financial gain.
“We will not bring the rule of law to cyberspace until governments refuse to provide safe harbor for criminal hacking within their borders,” said U.S. Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers.
“Unfortunately, our cases demonstrate that at least four nations—Iran, China, Russia and North Korea—will allow criminal hackers to victimize individuals and companies from around the world, as long as these hackers will also work for that country’s government—gathering information on human-rights activists, dissidents and others of intelligence interest,” he continued.
Demers also said that Heidarian and Farhadi “will now learn that such service to the Iranian regime is not an asset, but a criminal yoke that they will carry until the day they are brought to justice.”
If convicted, Heidarian and Farhadi face up to 37 years in prison, according to the Justice Department.
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