Justice Department charges several Iranians in 2013 hacking of New York dam

The Department of Justice announced charges Thursday against seven people with ties to the Iranian government for computer hacking-related crimes in connection with the 2013 hacking of a New York dam.

One of the seven, Hamid Firoozi, also faces a charge of unauthorized access to a protected computer at the Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook, N.Y.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI have been investigating the incident which targeted the dam’s command and control system. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara are expected to speak about the charges Thursday morning at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.

In December, The Wall Street Journal reported that officials at the Department of Homeland Security believe that hackers infiltrated the Bowman Avenue Dam through a cellular modem that enabled them to access the control system.

The breach raised fears of the vulnerabilities of the United States’ infrastructure to foreign hackers. It also came at a time that the Iranians were on the offensive in attacking U.S. banks.

It was believed at the time that the hackers never took control of the dam, but were able to probe the system, the report said.

In this case, the hackers were believed to have gained access to the dam through a cellular modem, the paper reported, citing an unclassified Homeland Security summary of the case that did not specifically name the dam. Two unnamed sources told the paper that the summary was referring to the relatively small, 20-foot-tall, concrete dam about 5 miles from Long Island sound. The dam is used for flood control in the area.

Fox News first reported the Iranian connection on March 10. The State Department declined to comment on the incident that day, instead deferring to the Justice Department. 

Spokesman Mark Toner did add that the U.S. government takes seriously all malicious activity in cyberspace and continues to ensure the safety of U.S. interests when it comes to cyberattacks. 

The law enforcement source told Fox News on Wednesday that the charges will amount to a “naming and shaming” of the alleged hackers since it is highly doubtful the Iranian government will agree to an extradition. 

The charges parallel the 2014 indictment unsealed in the Western District of Pennsylvania that outed five Chinese military officers for their alleged hacking of U.S. interests, according to the source.

Matthew Dean is Fox News Channel’s Department of Justice Federal Law Enforcement producer. Follow him on Twitter @MattFirewall.

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