U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger and the U.S. Justice Department unsealed indictments against three Iranian nationals today for a yearlong set of hacking schemes to extort a variety of governments and organizations around the country, including two in New Jersey.
The two New Jersey-based targets of the hackers’ attacks were a Morris County accounting firm and an unspecified township government in Union County.
The township was targeted in January and February of 2021, when one of the three hackers accessed the township’s network and data, establishing an unauthorized connection from the township’s network to a spoof web address mimicking a major tech company.
Sellinger did not say what information from the township had been compromised.
The Morris County accounting firm, meanwhile, was attacked more than a year later, in February and March 2022. After stealing some of the firm’s data and preventing it from accessing some of its own systems, the hackers issued a demand for $50,000.
“If you don’t want to pay, I can sell your data on the black market,” the hackers allegedly wrote to a representative of the firm. “The choice is yours.”
Also targeted by the hackers – whose names are Mansour Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatabi Aghda, and Amir Hossein Nickaein Ravari – were a county government in Wyoming, an accounting firm in Illinois, a public housing corporation in Washington State, an electrical company in Indiana, a domestic violence shelter in Pennsylvania, a construction company in Washington State, and an unnamed state bar association that does not appear to have been New Jersey’s.
All three hackers have been charged with one count of conspiring to commit fraud, one count of damaging a protected computer, and one count of transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer; the hacker involved in the Union Township incident additionally faces a second count of damaging a protected computer.
Sellinger said at a press conference on the indictments that today’s announcement should serve as a warning to future hackers who intend to commit cybercrimes anonymously.
“Hackers like these three Iranian nationals go to great lengths to keep their identities secret, but they always leave a digital trail,” Sellinger said. “And we will find it.”
Editor’s note: an earlier version of this story reported that the municipality was Union Township. but that cyberattack occurred in February 2020.