18:21 GMT21 February 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A total of 10 individuals and one entity from Iran are facing new sanctions for cyber activities, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a press release.

    Among those targeted are Behzad Mesri, who was charged with hacking into Home Box Office (HBO) servers in 2017, and the Iran-based Mabna Institute, the release said.

    The United States has charged nine Iranians for allegedly hacking hundreds of universities on behalf of the Iranian government, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced.

    "We are here today to announce the Federal Grand Jury in the Southern District of New York indicted nine Iranians for conspiring to hack into computers and to defraud American and foreign universities, businesses and government agencies. This indictment alleges that the defendants worked on behalf of the Iranian government, specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps," Rosenstein said.

    According to Rosenstein, nine Iranian hackers have hacked computer systems of approximately 320 universities in 22 countries, 144 of university victims are American universities.

    "The defendants stole research that cost those universities approximately $3.4 billion," Rosenstein stated.

    All nine individuals accused of hacking are believed to be in Iran, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman said in a press briefing.

    As a result of the indictment, the defendants are now fugitives from justice, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also pointed out.

    "There are more than 100 countries where they cannot travel without fear of arrest and extradition. And, thanks to the Treasury Department, the defendants will find it difficult to engage in business or financial transactions outside of Iran," he said.

    READ MORE: Trump Bans US Transactions With Venezuela's Digital Currency — White House

    US President Donald Trump signed CAATSA into law in August after Congress passed the measure in response to allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

    Iran Accused of Waging Cyberwar Against US, Allies 

    "Iran is engaged in an ongoing campaign of malicious cyber activity against the United States and our allies. The IRGC outsourced cyber intrusions to The Mabna Institute," Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker said in the release.

    The Treasury Department's action blocks all property and interests in property of the designated persons subject to US jurisdiction and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them, the release noted.

    "The Mabna Institute conducted massive, coordinated cyber intrusions into computer systems belonging to at least approximately 144 United States-based universities, in addition to at least 176 universities located in 21 foreign countries," the release continued.

    Those countries were: Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, the release said.

    The Treasury Department also identified the ten individuals as Gholamreza Rafatnejad, Ehsan Mohammadi, Seyed Ali Mirkarimi, Mostafa Sadeghi, Sajjad Tahmasebi, Abdollah Karima, Abuzar Gohari Moqadam, Roozbeh Sabahi, Mohammed Reza Sabahi and Behzad Mesri.

    The ten included the nine individuals charged by the Justice Department plus Behzad Mesri.

    READ MORE: Truncated Iran Nuclear Deal Could More Likely Survive US Withdrawal — Report

    US President Donald Trump signed CAATSA into law in August after Congress passed the measure in response to allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

    In January, the Trump administration started imposing new sanctions under CAATSA regarding significant transactions with Russian defense and intelligence sectors.

    Russia has also faced allegations of attempts to influence US public life, in particular, to meddle in the country's 2016 presidential election campaign.


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