Nine Iranians indicted by US for hacking to steal research data

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“Password spraying” attack gave Mabna group access to 32TB of diverse research data. Today, the Department of Justice announced charges against nine Iranian nationals connected to the Mabna Institute, a company an FBI spokesman said was “created in 2013 for the express purpose of illegally gaining access to non-Iranian scientific resources through computer intrusions.” The stolen data was largely acquired from universities, but academic journal publishers, tech companies, other private companies, government organizations, and the United Nations were targeted as well.

The hacking campaign was central to a line of business at Mabna Institute, which acts as a sort of pirated JSTOR for the Iranian academic and research community. Mabna, the indictment claims, “was set up in order to assist Iranian universities [and] scientific and research organizations to obtain access to non-Iranian scientific resources.” In that capacity, DOJ attorneys claim, “The Mabna Institute contracted with Iranian governmental and private entities to conduct hacking activities on their behalf.”