Justice Department Announces Charges in $3.4 Billion Cyber Theft Campaign

Justice Department Announces Charges in $3.4 Billion Cyber Theft Campaign

The cyber theft campaign was targeting American universities, companies and government entities.

The Justice Department has charged nine Iranians as part of a massive state-sponsored cyber theft campaign that targeted hundreds of universities, companies and government entities in the U.S. and abroad, federal authorities said on Friday.

The suspects allegedly breached the computer systems of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the United Nations and the states of Hawaii and Indiana. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said that the suspects allegedly stole more than 31 terabytes of data, about 15 billion pages, from 140 American universities, 30 U.S. companies and five government agencies, while targeting another 176 universities abroad.

The stolen information, including academic research in technology, medicine and other sciences, is valued at $3.4 billion, authorities said. Federal officials believe the information was stolen over the course of four years.

At least 100,000 email accounts help by university professors and researchers were targeted and about 8,000 accounts were compromised.

Mahattan U.S. Attorney General Geoffery Berman characterized the coordinated cyber attacks as "one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever prosecuted."

"The hackers targeted innovations and intellectual property from our country's greatest minds," Berman said. "These defendants are now fugitives from American justice, no longer free to travel outside Iran without risk of arrest."

The suspects were all affiliates of an Iranian-based company known as the Mabna Institute, which was founded in 2013. Prosecutors believe the company served as a contractor for the Iranian government with the specific mission to steal valuable research and other proprietary information, some of which was sold inside of Iran.

The nine suspects range in age from 24 to 39 and were charged with conspiracy, unauthorized computer intrusion, wire fraud and identity theft.

About the Author

Sydny Shepard is the Executive Editor of Campus Security & Life Safety.

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