US Sanctions IRGC-Affiliated Hackers on Ransomware Charges

In a new move by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), several sanctions were issued due to the defendant’s ransomware activities.

Ten individuals and two shell companies known to extort US companies and infrastructure providers have been sanctioned, banning all business activities with designated parties, in cryptocurrency or otherwise.

At the same time, the DOJ has also launched criminal charges against three individuals appointed in absentia.

Hospitals and transport hubs under attack

The attacks, led by alleged IRGC shell companies Najee Technology and Afkar System, have targeted government offices and businesses of the US and its allies in the Middle East since at least 2020. Once the hackers got access their target’s computer systems, they would. then block bona fide users and demand a Bitcoin ransom in exchange for the decryption keys.

While these ransomware attacks would not have been taken so seriously if they had only affected small businesses, the hackers’ targets included institutions vital to the public.

“From June to August 2021, the group accelerated its malicious activity targeting a wide range of US-based victims, including transportation providers, healthcare practices, emergency service providers, and educational institutions.”

Both the penalties and the criminal charges applied

Not only have the individuals been added to the US government’s official sanctions list, but they are also being prosecuted legally in a New Jersey court. Of course, the second legal action is pointless since all the suspects are overseas in a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the US. However, the measure effectively prohibits the group from traveling to the US or any country allied with it.

The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also released a statement for the technically inclined, outlining the procedures used in cyberattacks, how to prevent similar events, and more. According to the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nelson, these attacks are just the latest in a series of ransomware attacks carried out by allegedly state-sponsored hackers in several countries .

“Ransomware actors and other cybercriminals, regardless of their national origin or base of operations, have targeted businesses and critical infrastructure across the board, directly threatening the physical security and economy of the United States and other nations. We will continue to take coordinated actions with our global partners to combat and deter ransomware threats, including those associated with the IRGC.”

The US government and its various security agencies will continue their efforts to prevent similar attacks and have set a reward of up to $5 million for information about the suspects in the current case.


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