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Professors Targeted in Iranian Cyberattack

March 26, 2018

Nine Iranians were charged by the U.S. government last week for their role in a massive campaign to steal information from universities and companies around the world.

The hackers targeted more than 100,000 professors around the world with an email phishing scam. According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice, email accounts of around 8,000 professors at 144 universities in the U.S. and 176 universities worldwide were compromised.

The campaign, which started in 2013 and continued through the end of 2017, was used to steal research data and intellectual property for the benefit of the Iranian government. The hackers also sold professors’ institutional log-in details, so that companies and universities in Iran could access the online library resources of foreign institutions.

FBI assistant director William F. Sweeney Jr. described the scale of the attack as “staggering.” An estimated 30 terabytes of information were stolen from universities -- the equivalent of eight billion double-sided pages of text. Sweeney estimated that the value of the information was in the billions of dollars.

The hackers are currently safe from penalty in Iran, but if they leave the country they could face arrest and extradition to the United States for trial.

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Lindsay McKenzie

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