The Department of Justice charged two Iranians on Wednesday with engaging in a wide-ranging state-backed cyber espionage campaign targeting national security intelligence and nuclear information.
The "coordinated cyber intrusion campaign" was conducted by the hackers at the behest of the Iranian government, according to the DOJ. The hackers "stole hundreds of terabytes of data, which typically included confidential communications pertaining to national security, foreign policy intelligence, non-military nuclear information, aerospace data, human rights activist information, victim financial information and personally identifiable information, and intellectual property, including unpublished scientific research," according to the indictment.
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The Iranian government was particularly interested in obtaining information on dissidents and human rights activists who oppose the hardline regime. Iran has a history of targeting dissidents and regime opponents in its global spy operations, including those conducted inside the United States.
The hacking operations targeted computers located in New Jersey and other U.S. states, as well as Europe and the Middle East. The hacks started around 2013 and included American universities, an unnamed D.C.-based think tank, a defense contractor, an aerospace company, and several nongovernmental organizations.
The hackers "brazenly infiltrated computer systems and targeted intellectual property and often sought to intimidate perceived enemies of Iran, including dissidents fighting for human rights in Iran and around the world," according to Craig Carpenito, U.S. attorney for the district of New Jersey.