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Three Iranian nationals charged with ransom extortion scheme

The Justice Department on Wednesday charged three Iranian nationals with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
The Justice Department on Wednesday charged three Iranian nationals with violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice indicted three Iranian nationals on Wednesday for allegedly scheming to hack into the computer networks of hundreds of people in the United States and elsewhere.

Mansur Ahmadi, Ahmad Aghda, and Amir Nickaein, allegedly sought to exfiltrate data and information from computer systems in the U.S., the United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, and elsewhere.

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"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," Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division, said in a statement. "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 Justice Department said that the hacking campaign targeted a broad range of organizations, including small businesses, government agencies, nonprofit programs and educational institutions. The defendants attempted to conduct encryption attacks' against victims' computer systems, and then deny them access unless a ransom payment was made.

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In one case, the defendants allegedly targeted a township in Union County, N.J., in February 2021 and tried to gain control of the township's network. The defendants also targeted an accounting firm in Morris County, N.J., in February of this year.

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"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. "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."

The defendants were also sanctioned by the Treasury Department on Wednesday, along with seven other individuals and two entities involved in Iranian hacking campaigns.

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