American justice department authorities on Friday, March 23, said nine Iranians were charged as part of a big state-backed cyber theft campaign targeting several government entities, universities and companies in the US and abroad.
The suspects were accused of breaching the computer systems of the US Department of Labor, the United Nations, states of Indiana and Hawaii and also of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the officials added. The suspects are affiliates of Mabna Institute, an organisation based in Tehran.
America's Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said the nine suspects allegedly stole over 31 terabytes of data from as many as 140 American universities, 30 companies and five government bodies besides targeting over 175 universities in 21 countries. The stolen information was valued at a whopping $3.4 billion, the authorities informed.
The hackers allegedly targeted at least 1,00,000 email accounts of university professors and researchers while several thousand accounts were compromised.
Rosenstein even said that the acts were carried out at the behest of the government of Iran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The US has tense relation with Iran, especially in the era of President Donald Trump who has made a reversal of the pro-Iran policy of his predecessor Barack Obama.
'The act will expose Iran'
Though the Iran-based hackers were outside the immediate reach of authorities in the US, Rosenstein said at least their public identification and imposing consequences would deal a heavy blow to the state-sponsored computer hackings.
Sigal Mandelker, Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence and the acting Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, said at a press conference that the revelations would expose Iran's deceptive activities in front of the world.
Founded in 2013, the Mabna Institute functioned as a contractor for Tehran to steal valuable research and other information of proprietary, the authorities added.