Iranian government-backed cyber actors accused of orchestrating attacks on at least 15 countries and hundreds of individuals and entities across the globe have been sanctioned by the US government.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the imposition of sanctions (pursuant to Executive Order 13553) on Iranian cyber threat group Advanced Persistent Threat 39 (APT39), 45 associated individuals, and Rana Intelligence Company (Rana), a firm accused of acting as a “front company” for APT39.
The US government has accused the actors of perpetrating cyber attacks on at least 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as hundreds of individuals and entities in 30 additional countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and North America.
According to Secretary Pompeo, the groups were directed by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), which he said “tracks dissidents, journalists, and international companies for the regime”.
“It has recruited cyber threat groups, front companies, and hackers, and has employed malware to target innocent civilians and companies, and advance the regime’s malign agenda around the world,” Secretary Pompeo said.
“Cyber actors advance Iranian national security objectives and the strategic goals of MOIS by conducting computer attacks and malware campaigns against perceived adversaries, including foreign governments and other individuals the MOIS considers a threat.”
The Iranian-backed actors were believed to have employed “malicious cyber attack tools”, which were used to target and monitor Iranian citizens, particularly dissidents, Iranian journalists, former government employees, environmentalists, refugees, university students and faculty, and employees at international non-governmental organisations.
Secretary Pompeo revealed that some victims of the cyber attacks were later subjected to arrest and physical and psychological intimidation by the MOIS.
“We will continue to expose Iran’s nefarious behaviour and impose costs on the regime until they turn away from their destabilising agenda,” Secretary Pompeo said.