Two Iranians charged in cyber scheme targeting computers in U.S., Europe, and Middle East

The purloined data included a range of confidential documents pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, aerospace data, and unpublished scientific research, the Justice Department said. 

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January 2018 photo of Tehran, Iran
Tehran, Iran
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Updated: September 16, 2020 - 6:41pm

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Two Iranian nationals have been charged in connection with an intermittently state-sponsored campaign to target computers inside the United States, Europe and the Middle East, the Department of Justice announced Wednesday. The cyber-intruders acted at times on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the DOJ said. 

In a 10-count indictment dated Sept. 15, Iranians Hooman Heidarian, 30, and Mehdi Farhadi, 34, were charged with stealing hundreds of terabytes of data. The purloined data included a range of confidential documents pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, aerospace data, and unpublished scientific research, the DOJ said. 

"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," the DOJ wrote in a Wednesday statement. "In other instances, the defendants sold the hacked data and information on the black market for private financial gain."

The alleged perpetrators selected their victims after conducting "online reconnaissance" to target the victims' areas of expertise, the DOJ wrote. 

"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," Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said in a statement. " Today’s defendants will now learn that such service to the Iranian regime is not an asset, but a criminal yoke that they will now carry until the day they are brought to justice.”

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