A federal grand jury in New York City indicted seven Iranian nationals on Thursday related to cyberterrorist attacks on computer systems of several banks in the United States as well as for attempting to shut down the Bowman Avenue Dam in New York.
According to the grand jury, the accused individuals are Hamid Firoozi, Ahmad Fathi, Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, Amin Shokohi, Nader Seidi, Sina Keissar and Omid Ghaffarinia. They are all charged with conspiring to commit computer hacking while under the employ of two Iran-based tech companies, Mersad Company and ITSecTeam.
The seven are under suspicion of carrying out cyberattacks on at least 46 major U.S. financial institutions and companies on behalf of the government of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard. Some of the companies targeted in the attack include JPMorgan Chase, American Express, Wells Fargo and AT&T.
Those named in the indictment are all residents and citizens of Iran, and the U.S. government does not expect Tehran to conduct any extradition on these individuals.
Investigators believe the hackers disrupted the banks' operations by overwhelming their networks with a high volume of spammed messages, causing them to go offline.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch described the cyberattacks, which occurred from 2011 to 2013, as "relentless, systematic and widespread."
Lynch said that the seven Iranian nationals are also accused of conducting an attack on the computer system of New York's Bowman Avenue Dam. The group tried to obtain the operational control of the dam's flood gates but was foiled because of routine maintenance that had the system manually disconnected.
Former FBI agent and lead investigator on the Bowman cyberattack Andre McGregor pointed out that the hacking of the dam was a "game-changing event" for the federal government because it was carried out on a critical infrastructure.
The incident prompted the government to launch investigations on other systems that could be susceptible to similar hacking.
McGregor said that their investigations allowed them to identify many computer systems that had management consoles vulnerable to cyberattacks. He pointed out that basic cyberhygiene is still an important step in protecting networks against hacking.
The federal grand jury's indictments are considered to be part of the Obama Administration's efforts to publicly confront cyberterrorist attacks that are carried out against the U.S. by other countries.
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