HomeLatest UpdatesU.S. authorities charged an Iranian national for long-running hacking campaign

U.S. authorities charged an Iranian national for long-running hacking campaign

U.S. authorities charged an Iranian national for long-running hacking campaign

Pierluigi Paganini
March 02, 2024

The U.S. DoJ charged Iranian national Alireza Shafie Nasab for his role in attacks targeting U.S. government and defense entities.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) charged Iranian national Alireza Shafie Nasab (39) for multi-year hacking campaign targeting U.S. defense contractors and private companies.

Targeted entities include the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and State, defense contractors, and more than a dozen US companies, including firms based in New York.

According to DoJ, from at least in or about 2016 through or about April 2021, Nasab and other co-conspirators carried out a coordinated multi-year campaign to breach computers worldwide.

“While purporting to work as a cybersecurity specialist for Iran-based clients, Mr. Nasab allegedly participated in a persistent campaign to compromise U.S. private sector and government computer systems,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “Today’s charges highlight Iran’s corrupt cyber ecosystem, in which criminals are given free rein to target computer systems abroad and threaten U.S. sensitive information and critical infrastructure. Our National Security Cyber Section remains focused on disputing these cross-border hacking schemes and holding those responsible to account.”

Nasab and other conspirators used spear phishing and other hacking techniques to infect more than 200,000 victim devices.

In one case, the hackers successfully compromised an administrator email account associated with a defense contractor. Then perpetrators used this administrator account to create unauthorized accounts under the Defense Contractor and used them to conduct spear-phishing campaigns targeting employees of another defense contractor and a consulting firm.

While conducting these attacks, the Iranian man worked for Mahak Rayan Afraz, a company based in Iran that claimed to offer cybersecurity services but was, in reality, a cover for the operations of the conspirators. Nasab was also involved in the acquisition of the infrastructure utilized in the long-running campaign. Nasab utilized the stolen identity of an actual individual to register a server and email accounts used in the attacks.

“In addition to spearphishing, the conspirators utilized social engineering, which involved impersonating others, generally women, in order to obtain the confidence of victims. These social engineering contacts were another means the conspiracy used to deploy malware onto victim computers and compromise those devices and accounts.” continues the DoJ.

The Iranian hacker faces up to 20 years in prison, plus a mandatory two-year sentence for identity theft.

Nasab faces charges, including conspiracy to commit computer fraud, with a maximum penalty of five years in prison; conspiracy to commit wire fraud, carrying a maximum penalty of 20 years; wire fraud, with a maximum penalty of 20 years; and aggravated identity theft, which mandates a consecutive term of two years in prison.

“Concurrent with the unsealing of the indictment, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice Program is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the identification or location of Nasab.” concludes DoJ.

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, Iranian national)

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