By REZA MALEK
Seven Iranian computer hackers, linked to the government in Tehran, were charged Thursday by the Justice Department with cyberattacks against American banks and an attempt to take control of a small dam in New York.
Officials said they were working for private security companies that do business with the Iranian government, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. It is estimated that the hackers were able to access the servers of 46 major financial institutions.
The Bowman dam, roughly 20 miles north of New York City and of no strategic value to speak of, was also affected by the hackers, according to the federal indictment.
The men were identified as Ahmad Fathi, Hamid Firoozi, Amin Shokohi, Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, Omid Ghaffarinia, Sina Keissar and Nader Saedi. The seven hackers were working for ITSecTeam and Mersad Company, two Iran-based computer companies.
“I applaud the U.S. Department of Justice on its successful investigation of this matter and identifying those responsible,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The Iranian attacks, according to the indictment, were classified as “distributed denial of service” towards the New York Stock Exchange and AT&T, resulting in overwhelmed computers and crashed networks.
From 2011 to 2013, the seven hackers were able to coordinate a campaign and disable bank websites, stop customer access to their online accounts, and as a result, costing the banks and other corporations millions of dollars.
“The Iranian defendants intended for New York to be the epicenter of harm,” said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, at a Washington, D.C., press conference. “New York has always been the blue chip target for those who want to harm our country.”
This is the first time that the Obama administration has charged Iranians for their computer attacks on the United Since since they began in 2011.
“The federal indictments outlined are serious and demonstrate the challenges our nation faces combating cyber threats,” said Cuomo.
The New York dam proved to be a different story: the Iranian hackers were attempting to take over the dam entirely. The dam was offline at the time, resulting in a failed attempts from the Iranians. The attempt left U.S. officials concerned as it was aimed towards controlling infrastructure.
All suspects have been charged with multiple accounts of conspiracy and computer hacking, which can lead to a maximum prison sentence of 10 year.
All seven hackers are both Iranian citizens and residents, and are not in U.S. custody.
A spokesperson from The Department of Justice declined to comment and referred to the press release.