University hackers charged by US

Nine Iranian hackers responsible for a worldwide hack on university systems, have been charged by the US Department of Justice.

They are alleged to be a part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the government-funded Mabna Institute.

According to the Department of Justice report, the attacks began as early as 2013, the hackers worked on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the government-funded Mabna Institute. The goal of the attack was to steal research, including journals, dissertations and other academic papers.

US deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said:

‘These nine Iranian nationals allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of documents and data from more than 140 American universities, 30 American companies, five American government agencies, and also more than 176 universities in 21 foreign countries.”

In total, the hackers collected a staggering 31.5 terabytes (31,500GB) of data. To put this into perspective, the hackers who breached Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2011 made off with just 40GB.

The breach impacted 20 universities in the UK. The attackers used a sophisticated spear-phishing campaign to steal credentials from university professors and high-level employees. Their efforts were alarmingly successful. The unsealed indictment reveals that more than 8,000 professors’ email accounts.

Hacked data was made available on a pair of Iranian websites, (Megapaper) and (Gigapaper). Their customers allegedly included numerous Iranian universities and companies. Gigapaper also provided a service that allowed subscribers to access university research and library systems using stolen credentials.

 The defendants – Gholamreza Rafatnejad, Ehsan Mohammadi, Abdollah Karima, Mostafa Sadeghi, Seyed Ali Mirkarimi, Mohammed Reza Sabahi, Roozbeh Sabahi, Abuzar Gohari Moqadam and Sajjad Tahmasebi  have been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, unauthorised access of a computer and aggravated identity theft.
The men are currently wanted by the FBI.
The full press release from the US Department of Justice is available here
Jak Edgley


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