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U.S. set to charge Iranians for cyber attacks on banks, dam

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Posted at 10:43 AM, Mar 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-24 10:43:10-04

U.S. authorities are set to issue “wanted” notices for a group of Iranian hackers the U.S. believes are behind a 2013 computer intrusion of a small New York dam and a series of cyber attacks on dozens of U.S. banks, U.S. officials close to the investigation told CNN.

The Justice Department is expected as soon as Thursday to announce a criminal indictment against seven Iran-based hackers, the officials said.

CNN first reported earlier this month the U.S. government’s plan to “name and shame” the cyber attackers. Investigators believe the hackers were contracted by the Iranian government, the officials say.

It’s only the third such public announcement, part of a strategy shift in recent years intended to discourage foreign government’s from conducting cyber intrusions on U.S. government and corporate computer systems. The U.S. has publicly attributed cyber attacks on large U.S. industrial companies to Chinese military hackers and to North Korea for the Sony Pictures Entertainment.

The Iranian hackers targeted financial institutions in 2013 and 2014 with denial-of-service and other attacks. JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and dozens of other banks were victims of the group, U.S. investigators found.

The 2013 intrusion at the Bowman Avenue Dam, about 30 miles north of New York City in suburban Rye Brook, New York, wasn’t considered sophisticated — the hackers managed only to get access to some back office systems, not the operational systems of the dam, U.S. officials say. U.S. investigators quickly determined the attack was carried out by hackers working for the Iranian government.

But the attack alarmed Obama administration officials who have voiced concerns about the vulnerability of U.S. infrastructure to cyber attacks.