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September 2022


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

3 Iranian Men Indicted in International Hacking Scheme

By Allan Lengel

The Justice Department has indicted three men in Iran on charges of allegedly carrying out an international hacking scheme in which they extracted information from computers or blocked victims from access to their systems and data until they paid a ransom. Victims included government agencies, small businesses, health care centers, transportation services and utility providers.

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Hundreds of victims were in the U.S., United Kingdom, Israel and Iran.

The federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charged Mansour Ahmadi, aka Mansur Ahmadi, 34; Ahmad Khatibi Aghda, aka Ahmad Khatibi, 45; and Amir Hossein Nickaein Ravari, aka Amir Hossein Nikaeen, aka Amir Hossein Nickaein, aka Amir Nikayin, 30.  Authorities alleged the scheme went on from October 2020 to present.

The three men are at large, authorities 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 Justice Department’s National Security Division 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.”

In one case this past February, the suspects and their conspirators targeted a Morris County, N.J. accounting firm and stole data. After denying the firm access to some of its systems, Khatibi demanded a $50,000 payment in cryptocurrency and threatened to sell the data on the black market.

“Ransom-related cyberattacks — like what happened here — are a particularly destructive form of cybercrime,” U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger for the District of New Jersey said in a statement. “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.”

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