Iranian hackers targeted NJ town, business in international ransomware attacks, prosecutors say
Three Iranian citizens are charged with carrying out cyberattacks on two New Jersey targets as part of an international hacking campaign that infiltrated hundreds of computer networks.
According to an indictment unsealed Wednesday, the three hackers infiltrated security systems and accessed the data of victims in the United States, United Kingdom, Israel, and Iran. The case was filed in federal court in New Jersey, US Attorney Philip Sellinger said.
Sellinger said that a township in Union County and an accounting firm in Morris County were among the targets. The municipality and business were not identified in the indictment.
Court records show that the Union County municipality, hacked in February 2021, was the first victim. The Iranian men gained access to its network and data.
Then in March of the following year, the hackers launched a cyberattack against the accounting firm in Morris County, prosecutors said. The Iranians had locked the firm out of its own servers and demanded $50,000.
"If you don't want to pay, I can sell your data on the black market," one message said, according to the indictment. "This choice is yours."
Prosecutors say other victims included nonprofits, government agencies, healthcare centers, small businesses, and a variety of other organizations. One shelter for victims of domestic violence in Pennsylvania was forced to pay $13,000 in Bitcoin to regain access to its records.
The indictment states that the men kept timesheets documenting how many hours they worked on their illegal scheme.
Mansour Ahmadi, 34, Ahmad Khatibi, 45, and Amir Hossein Nickaein, 30, each faces several charges including conspiring to commit computer fraud, intentionally damaging a protected computer, and transmitting a demand in relation to damaging a protected computer.