New: Trump administration hits Iranian hacker network with sanctions, indictments in vast global campaign https://t.co/fdCPk4ZNff
— Shane Harris (@shaneharris) March 23, 2018
Of course, foreign espionage agents are always very bad news. But after Thursday’s press release, I can’t have been the only person hoping/fearing for a less… anodyne announcement:
The Trump administration on Friday announced sanctions and criminal indictments against an Iranian hacker network it said was involved in “one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns” ever prosecuted by the United States, targeting hundreds of U.S. and foreign universities, as well as dozens of U.S. companies and government agencies, and the United Nations.
None of the alleged hackers were direct employees of the Iranian government, but all worked at the behest of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), officials said. While not the first such punishments imposed on Iran for such malicious acts, the new measures address more extensive Iranian efforts than previously alleged.
Nine of 10 named individuals were connected to the Mabna Institute, a Shiraz-based tech firm that the Justice Department alleged hacks on behalf of Iranian universities and the IRGC. The institute conducted “massive, coordinated intrusions” into the computer systems of at least 144 U.S. universities and 176 foreign universities in 21 countries, including Britain and Canada, officials said.
The hackers stole more than 31 terabytes of data and intellectual property — the rough equivalent of three Libraries of Congress — from their victims, prosecutors alleged. Much of it ended up in the hands of the IRGC, which has frequently been accused of stealing information to further its own research and development of weaponry. The Guard Corps is the division of Iran’s security forces charged with overseeing Iranian proxy forces abroad and is under the direct control of the country’s religious leaders…
The Trump Regency has gotten us into a very weird mindspace. Under normal circumstances, would one’s first thought be “Yes, yes, Mr. Bolton — those crafty Iranian terrorists, and their mad mullahs, always looking to DESTROY THE GREAT SATAN… “
Unintentionally (?) perfect coda:
… Also sanctioned was Behzad Mesri, who U.S. prosecutors announced last November had been indicted on a charge related to the hacking of HBO and theft of unaired episodes of programs including “Game of Thrones,” which the hacker threatened to release unless he was paid $6 million….