Iranian Hackers Target U.S. Government Officials
Government officials in the Obama administration have had their email and social media accounts hacked by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to U.S. officials.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has shifted to a high gear in targeting and successfully hacking email and social media accounts belonging to Obama administration officials, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The publication cites anonymous U.S. officials who revealed a surge in hacking activity by the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard is related to a recent arrest of an Iranian-American businessman by the Revolutionary Guard in Tehran, Iran.
Saimak Namazi, a business consultant and an executive in the energy industry has previously pushed for better U.S.-Iranian diplomatic ties. A recent international agreement between the two countries eased strict economic sanctions previously imposed on Iran by the United States. The sanctions were lifted in return for Iran’s guarantee of its nuclear program staying away from developing nuclear weapons.
The IRGC has routinely engaged in cyber espionage targeting U.S. agencies but the increased activity saw a number of Obama administration personnel and officials at the State Department’s Office of Iranian Affairs. Also, computers and networks belonging to journalists and academics have also been hacked, an unnamed official confirmed.
Speaking to the WSJ, the administration official said:
U.S. officials were among many who were targeted by recent cyberattacks … officials believe some of the more recent attacks may be linked to reports of detained dual citizens and others.
Namazi has previously worked for Washington-based think tanks and is the head of Crescent Petroleum, an oil and gas company in the UAE. The IRGC has reportedly detained Namazi in the past and interrogated routinely besides having his family home ransacked in Tehran.
The hackers are believed to be targeting U.S. officials actively working on Iranian policy.
The volatile history of diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran is well documented. Both sides engage in cyberattacks with the highly publicized incident wherein a USB-drive carrying the Stuxnet malware was planted by the U.S. to disrupt Iran’s nuclear installations.
Security experts point to a procedure employed by Iran-based hackers who focus on a target’s social media accounts. For instance, if a target’s Facebook account had 100 friends with each of those having an additional 100 friends, a comprehensive comb-through of the target’s records will eventually result in gaining the names and information of 10,000 users.
U.S. officials claim Russian influences behind the army of cyber-agents cultivated by the IRGC and trained by Russia to focus on U.S. corporations, oil companies in Saudi Arabia and other targets. Russia has always denied the accusation.
Images from Shutterstock.