Ira­nian hack­ers charged in scheme that hit NC, other states

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY TIM JOHN­SON tjohn­[email protected]­

Two Ira­nian hack­ers charged Wed­nes­day in a fed­eral in­dict­ment were ac­cused of at­tack­ing the com­puter net­works of hos­pi­tals and other tar­gets in 43 states, a broad crim­i­nal ex­tor­tion cam­paign that wal­loped a heart hos­pi­tal in Kansas and dis­rupted one of the na­tion’s largest di­ag­nos­tic blood testing com­pa­nies in North Carolina.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said the three-year cy­ber­crime spree caused tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age from coast to coast. It marked the first U.S. in­dict­ment against for­eign hack­ers en­gaged in a for­profit ran­somware and ex­tor­tion scheme.

The two hack­ers de­vel­oped unique tools to hold U.S. com­puter net­works hostage from Iran, pros­e­cu­tors said. The two Ira­ni­ans, Fara­marz Shahi Sa­vandi, 34, and Mo­ham­mad Me­hdi Shah Man­souri, 27, re­main at large, pre­sum­ably in their home­land, of­fi­cials said.

As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian A. Benczkowski sidestepped a ques­tion about whether Iran’s gov­ern­ment spon­sored the two, say­ing only that the in­dict­ment con­tains no such al­le­ga­tion.

The three-year ran­somware cam­paign hit at least 200 vic­tims in the United States, col­lect­ing more than $6 mil­lion in ex­tor­tion pay­ments and caus­ing more than $30 mil­lion in losses, Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Rod J. Rosen­stein said.

Ran­somware is com­puter code that en­crypts tar­geted sys­tems and crip­ples net­works un­til vic­tims pay a ran­som, usu­ally in a dig­i­tal cur­rency like bit­coin.

In one of the Ira­nian team’s first al­leged ac­tions in 2016, it hit the com­put­ers of Kansas Heart Hos­pi­tal in Wi­chita, which pro­vides spe­cial­ized car­dio­vas­cu­lar care for pa­tients.

One of the most re­cent at­tacks oc­curred July 14 against Lab­o­ra­tory Cor­po­ra­tion of Amer­ica, or LabCorp, a Burling­ton di­ag­nos­tic com­pany that pro­cesses more than 2.5 mil­lion tests per week and holds a pa­tient data­base of nearly half the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. Its global foot­print reaches 127 coun­tries.

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