The U.S. indicted two Iranians for their part in launching a major ransomware attack, as well as sanctioning two others for their efforts in exchanging ransom payments into Iranian currency. The 34-mouth scheme targeted 200 victims, and the list includes hospitals, government agencies, schools, and other companies. The damage is estimated at over $30 million. There were hospitals that had to turn away patents. A majority of Atlanta’s city government had to be shut down, with the hackers collecting approximately $6 million in ransoms.
The six-count indictment charged Faramarz Shahi Savandi and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, both based in Iran, with multiple counts, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud related to computers. Other charges accuse the two men of intentional damage to computers and the illegal transmission of demands to protected computers.
“The allegations in the indictment unsealed today – the first of its kind – outline an Iran-based international computer hacking and extortion scheme that engaged in 21st century digital blackmail,” said Brian Benczkowski, the Assistant Attorney General.
Hackers unlikely to be deterred
With the U.S. not having an extradition treaty with Iran, it is unlikely that these two men will be held accountable. The Justice Department believes the men will be charged one day.
“American justice has a long arm and we will wait and eventually we’re confident that we will take these perpetrators into custody,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Still, it is clear that the U.S. is actively calling out the actions of the Iranian regime in terms of cyberattacks. The more the U.S. learns about these attacks, the better they can protect against them, even if the Iranian regime is unlikely to stop them.
In the meantime, Iran continues its campaign to evade U.S. sanctions. Part of its maneuvers include attempts to upgrade its military and equipment in an effort to stand up to the U.S. Questions remain regarding the ability of Iran to truly be effective in these efforts.
“The Raptor, having detected a flight of Iranian F-14s and given the go-ahead to engage, would likely turn toward the enemy and launch its Raytheon AIM-120D AMRAAM missile – which reportedly has a range of 96 nautical miles when launched from a conventional fighter – from high supersonic speeds exceeding Mach 1.5 and at altitudes well above 50,000 ft. It would be all over for the Iranian F-14s before anyone in the enemy formation would have any idea they were under attack,” said the National Interest in evaluating Iran’s chances against the U.S. military.
Crippling sanctions impact oil revenues
For Iran, the oil revenues are being hit the hardest by the latest actions of the U.S. and the Trump administration. Iran is attempting to set up its private exchange to get around the sanctions, but this has not been a great success.
The Trump administration is clearly determined to put as much pressure on the Iranian regime as possible. Despite the efforts of the European Union to undermine the sanctions, most of the international community is reducing their Iranian oil imports. In fact, only eight countries received waivers from the U.S., and those were given in exchange for significant oil reductions over time.
“The people of Iran who are already experiencing the adverse effects of the economy welcome the sanctions because they want the regime pressured into being accountable for its actions and for its negligence of domestic issues. They know that regime change is inevitable because it cannot continue down this road much further,” said Shahriar Kia, a reporter who covers Iran and the Iranian resistance.