A federal grand jury handed up indictments Thursday against seven members of Iran’s elite security force, who the Justice Department alleges committed cybercrimes targeting 46 financial institutions and a New York dam.
The suspects are responsible for a series of attempted 2012-13 hacks against the Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook and major banks such as Bank of America, Capital One Bank and PNC Bank, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and US Attorney Preet Bharara.
The NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchange were also targeted.
“These attacks were relentless, they were systematic and they were widespread,” Lynch said.
The victim institutions were forced to spend millions of dollars to shore up cybersecurity due to the hacks, the feds said.
Hackers also scored information about the Bowman Avenue Dam — such as water levels and temperature — but didn’t gain operational control, officials said.
“The Iranian defendants intended New York to be the epicenter of harm because New York is the financial capital of the world, because New York has always been the blue chip target for those who want to harm our country,” said Bharara.
Bharara called the attempted attack on the Bowman Dam “a frightening new frontier for cybercrime.”
“Although no actual harm resulted from that [dam] infiltration, the potential havoc that such a hack of American infrastructure could wreak is scary to think about,” he said.
All the defendants “performed work on behalf of the Iranian government, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which is one of several entities within the Iranian government responsible for Iranian intelligence,” according to the indictment.
The suspects were identified as: Ahmad Fathi, Hamid Firoozi, Amin Shokohi, Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, Omid Ghaffarinia, Sina Keissar and Nader Saedi. All seven live in Iran, according to the feds.
They were hit with indictments for conspiracy and unauthorized access to a protected computer.
“They [cybercriminals] think it’s a freebie because they’re halfway around the world and trying to use anonymization techniques,” said FBI Director James Comey.
He added: “The message of this case is we will work together to shrink the world and impose costs on those people so no matter where they are, we will try to reach them.”