July 20, 2024

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Iranians hacked US companies, sent ransom demands to printers, indictment says

3 min read
Iranians hacked US companies, sent ransom demands to printers, indictment says

Illustration of a hooded figure in dark room typing on a laptop. In the background, the wall is covered in ones and zeroes.

Getty Illustrations or photos | Monthly bill Hinton

A few Iranian nationals billed with hacking into US-centered laptop networks sent ransom demands to the printers of at the very least some of their victims, in accordance to an indictment unsealed right now. The ransom calls for allegedly sought payments in trade for BitLocker decryption keys that the victims could use to get back accessibility to their knowledge.

The three defendants continue being at huge and exterior the US, the DOJ explained.

“The defendants’ hacking campaign exploited acknowledged vulnerabilities in commonly employed network products and software program apps to attain obtain and exfiltrate knowledge and facts from victims’ computer programs,” the US Department of Justice reported in a push launch. Defendants Mansour Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatibi, Amir Hossein Nickaein “and some others also carried out encryption assaults in opposition to victims’ laptop units, denying victims access to their techniques and facts except if a ransom payment was built.”

The indictment in US District Courtroom for the District of New Jersey describes a few incidents in which ransom demands ended up despatched to printers on hacked networks. In one situation, a printed information sent to an accounting agency allegedly said, “We will promote your knowledge if you make a decision not to shell out or try to get better them.”

In another incident, the indictment reported a Pennsylvania-based mostly domestic violence shelter hacked in December 2021 acquired a concept on its printers that stated, “Hi. Do not take any motion for restoration. Your information could be corrupted and not recoverable. Just call us.”

Khatibi afterwards “despatched an e mail to a agent of the Domestic Violence Shelter inquiring for payment of 1 Bitcoin,” the indictment said. The shelter in the end compensated the equal of $13,000 to the hacker’s Bitcoin wallet, the indictment said, including that Khatibi then “provided decryption keys to enable the Domestic Violence Shelter to restore obtain to its devices and data.”

Ahead of sending the ransom desire, “a member of the conspiracy obtained unauthorized accessibility to the Domestic Violence Shelter’s personal computer technique and released an encryption attack by activating BitLocker, therefore denying the Domestic Violence Shelter obtain to some of its techniques and information,” the indictment stated. BitLocker is an encryption instrument applied in Windows.


Victims incorporated compact businesses, govt companies, nonprofit courses, educational and religious establishments, and “a number of crucial infrastructure sectors, including overall health treatment centers, transportation providers and utility companies,” the DOJ push launch claimed. The a few indicted hackers and co-conspirators “collected payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from selected victims that paid out the ransom to decrypt their knowledge,” the indictment claimed.

The Iranians hacked networks in several nations, “acquire[ing] unauthorized entry to the personal computer devices of hundreds of victims in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, and in other places,” the DOJ explained. The US company accused Iran’s authorities of “creat[ing] a safe and sound haven wherever cyber criminals acting for own gain flourish and defendants like these are ready to hack and extort victims, like vital infrastructure suppliers.”

In April 2021, “Nickaein sent a ransom demand from customers interaction to the printers” of an Illinois corporation referred to as “Accounting Agency 2,” the indictment stated. The ransom need allegedly explained to the agency to make contact with an email account managed by Nickaein and involved the subsequent textual content:


IF YOU ARE Reading THIS, IT Usually means YOUR Details IS ENCRYPTED AND YOUR Non-public Sensitive Details IS STOLEN!

Read Diligently THE Total Guidelines TO Steer clear of ANY Problems

YOU HAVE TO Contact US Instantly TO Resolve THIS Situation AND MAKE A Deal!

We will provide your facts if you make your mind up not to spend or test to get well them.

In advance of sending the ransom demand from customers, Nickaein hacked into the firm’s network, “stole knowledge, and introduced an encryption assault utilizing BitLocker, therefore denying Accounting Firm 2 obtain to specific of its units and information,” the indictment reported.

This is not the to start with hacking campaign to use the tactic, sometimes named “print bombing,” of sending ransom calls for to printers on the infected network.

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