DOJ Charges Iranian Hackers For Cyberattacks Against Critical US Infrastructure Entities

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged three Iranian nationals for executing several ransomware attacks and other cyberattacks against United States critical infrastructure entities including multiple healthcare organizations. The information of the charges comes from an unsealed indictment filed in the US District Court for the District of New Jersey and a DOJ press release. 

According to the press release, the hacking campaign exploited flaws in frequently used network devices and software applications to gain access and remove files from computer systems. The hackers then deny the victims access to their own systems unless a ransom payment is paid. The attacks were reportedly made by Mansour Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatibi Aghda, and Amir Hossein Nickaein Ravari from October 2020. The three individuals are also believed to have been part of an attempted cyberattack on the Boston Children’s Hospitals. In a statement released by the United States Treasury, the hacker group gained access to the hospital’s network. Once access was gained, the hackers created accounts, removed data and encrypted devices with BitLocker. 

Fortunately, the United States government was able to notify the Boston Children’s Hospital prior to the attack. Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Christopher Wray, delivered an accompanying statement that provided more insight into the attack at Boston Children’s Hospital. Wray stated. “I’m very proud of our success thwarting that attack. This indictment, and the cybersecurity advisory we’re releasing, show what’s possible when federal and international partners work together and place a priority on close collaboration with victims,” said Christopher Wray. “The cyber threat facing our nation is growing more dangerous and complex every day. Today’s announcement makes clear the threat is both local and global. It’s one we can’t ignore and it’s one we can’t fight on our own, either.”

Although the charges are only allegations, it is assumed that the hackers will face a significant prison sentence and a maximum fine of $250,000. The indictments and penalties coincide with the ongoing exponential rise in healthcare cyberattacks. The  Boston Children’s Hospital attack, which has been prevented, serves as a case study for how the healthcare industry and other crucial infrastructure institutions might be caught in the crossfire of geopolitical conflicts.