(NewsNation) — Three Iranian citizens have been charged with allegedly orchestrating a scheme to hack into the computer networks of hundreds of U.S. victims, according to a release from the U.S. Department of Justice.
An indictment unsealed Wednesday says the suspects targeted a broad range of organizations, including small businesses, government agencies, nonprofit programs and educational and religious institutions.
The suspects also conducted encryption attacks, according to the release, denying victims access to the systems and data they gained access to unless a ransom payment was made. In some cases, the victims made those payments, the department said.
“The Government of Iran has created a safe haven where cyber criminals acting for personal gain flourish and defendants like these are able to hack and extort victims, including critical infrastructure providers,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the DOJ’s National Security Division. “This indictment makes clear that even other Iranians are less safe because their own government fails to follow international norms and stop Iranian cyber criminals.”
The alleged hacking took place between October 2020 through last month.
The three defendants were identified as Mansour Ahmadi, 34, Ahmad Khatibi Aghda, 45, and Amir Hossein Nickaein Ravari, 30.
“Ransom-related cyberattacks — like what happened here — are a particularly destructive form of cybercrime,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey, where the case was filed in federal court. “No form of cyberattack is acceptable, but ransomware attacks that target critical infrastructure services, such as health care facilities and government agencies, are a threat to our national security. Hackers like these defendants go to great lengths to keep their identities secret, but there is always a digital trail. And we will find it.”