The United States of America has sanctioned nine people from Iran and an Iranian firm named Mabna Institute for their alleged attempt to hack the servers of universities across the world, many companies and also some departments of US government. US Justice Department stated that the attacks had started in 2013 has stolen about 31 terabytes of academic data and other intellectual property from nearly 144 Universities in US and 176 universities in 21 other countries.
The nine individuals who have been sanctioned are fugitives who are liable to be extradited if they attempt to travel outside Iran. The Justice Department said that the US authorities will not spare any hostile powers or individuals who try to profit by making use of American intellectual property and corrupt US information systems. The statement did not state that the hackers directly a part of the government of Iran but was stated to be working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps via Mabna Institute. IRGC is a sophisticated force which is given the task of protection of Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy from various threats emanating from Iran or abroad.
The Department raised concerns about the hacking attempts to disrupt the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as it is involved in interstate energy regulation and has details of highly sensitive infrastructure. In addition, email accounts of more than 100,000 professors had been hacked, a majority of them were from the US. US Labor Department, UN and many systems in US states of Hawaii and Indiana were also attacked.
The Justice Department has issued an official warning of more attacks in future from Iran which will be retaliated by denial of service attacks on the website. The involvement of Mabna Institute in the cyber attacks on the universities of the world was also confirmed by Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre. This is the fourth round of sanctions by Trump administration in the past few months on charges of cyber attacks. Hackers have also attacked emails of employees from 36 companies in US and 11 in Germany, Italy and Britain where the companies were victimised to a technique password spraying which involves getting a list of email accounts of a company and then hack them by making use of common internet default passwords. Once inside the server, the hackers steal the complete mailboxes.
Another Iranian Behzad Mesri who is still at large has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department on charges of breaking into the HBO network and leak the unaired episodes of the show Game of Thrones