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Iranian Government Suspected Of Hacking Attacks Against Activists

Iranian hackers have attacked user accounts of several Iranian charity workers, academics, dual nationals living abroad as well as tens of political and civil activists in Iran, reported Campaign for Human Rights in Iran on Saturday April 28.

According to CHRI, the attacks originating from inside Iran took place during the past two weeks and targeted email and social media accounts of some well-known Iranians.

The report did not mention any names, but said that the attack targeted individuals in California, Washington DC and Tehran.

The CHRI added that some of those whose accounts were attacked were in communication with individuals who have been arrested in Iran. Some others were professional acquaintances of individuals currently in custody in Iran.

Some of those who were targeted by the attacks have been charged with “baseless accusations” by IRGC-linked media during the past few weeks, the report further added.

Professor Abbas Edalat of London’s Imperial College is one of the activists who was arrested on April 15 in Tehran. Edalat is a British-Iranian dual national who campaigned to prevent sanctions and war against Iran.

Meanwhile, the arrest of more than a dozen environmental activists in February, led Kaveh Madani, also an Imperial College lecturer, to leave Iran because of political pressures.

Madani wrote in his resignation letter that “all of his personal hardware and social media user accounts were stolen” by Iranian government agents upon his arrival in Tehran in 2017 to work with Iran’s Environment Department.

The CHRI reported that hackers have also targeted the accounts of the members of Imam Ali Charity as well as those of tens of civil and political activists in Iran.

The Imam Ali Charity is an NGO in Iran that supports underprivileged women and children. The charity told Telecommunications and IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi via their Twitter account that all emails, Telegram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts of the charity’s members were “widely” targeted by hackers on April 26, adding that some of their Gmail and telephones were also hacked.

Subsequently, Jahromi replied that he has ordered an investigation into the matter by the ministry’s security office but did not elaborate on details of what he was going to do.

Some experts have said that the hackers have used the kind of information that are usually available to telecommunications and intelligence agencies.

The charity also said that one of their SIM which was inactive was also hacked, which points to state level access. Such a hack would be possible through cell phones registry center, a government organization which happens to be under Jahromi’s supervision, the Charity added.

Based on the same information CHRI concluded that “hackers have undoubtedly had access to Iran’s telecommunications infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Internet security expert Amin Sabeti told the CHRI that IRGC-linked hackers have started a wave of attacks against Iranians and others all over the world in the same style they had been operating since March 2017.

A Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report [] released in January said that Iranian intelligence organizations, like their counterparts in other countries, have been increasingly involved in cyber intelligence and cyber-attacks, targeting Iranian opposition in Iran and abroad as well as civil right institutions, government offices and businesses in the US, Israel, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

The report which was focused on Iran’s destructive activity in cyber space, said Iran uses misleading user accounts as cover in order to conceal its responsibility while taking credit for its hacking capability.

Since 2012, Iran has been implicated in hacking cases involving some US banks and a dam near New York and attempting to access the Obama administration officials’ user accounts.

In a most recent case the United States imposed sanctions on 10 Iranian real and legal entities on charges of hacking hundreds of US and international academic institutions.