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Three Iranian Citizens Charged in Ransomware Attacks in the U.S.

An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice in Washington, March 22, 2019. AP
An American flag flies outside the Department of Justice in Washington, March 22, 2019. AP

The Justice Department said Wednesday that three Iranian citizens have been charged in the United States with ransomware attacks that targeted power companies, local governments and small businesses and nonprofits, including a domestic violence shelter.

The charges accuse the hacking suspects of targeting hundreds of entities in the U.S. and around the world, encrypting and stealing data from victim networks, and threatening to release it publicly or leave it encrypted unless exorbitant ransom payments were made. In some cases, the victims made those payments, the department said.

The Biden administration has tried to go after hackers who have held U.S. targets essentially hostage, often sanctioned or sheltered by adversaries. The threat gained particular prominence in May 2021 when a Russia-based hacker group was accused of conducting a ransomware attack on Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline, which disrupted gas supplies along the East Coast.

Iran-based hackers have also been a focus over the last year, with the FBI thwarting a planned cyberattack on a children’s hospital in Boston that was to have been carried out by hackers sponsored by the Iranian government.

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