The Obama administration on Thursday indicted seven Iranians for a series of coordinated cyber attacks agains the U.S. financial sector and for infiltrating a New York dam in 2013.
The charges are the first major public step the U.S. has taken to curb Iran’s rapidly developing cyber program, which has been pestering American companies with low-level hacks and probing for critical infrastructure network vulnerabilities for several years.
“Cybercriminals often think it’s a freebie to reach into the United States to do harm,” FBI Director James B. Comey said during remarks announcing the charges. “The message of this case is we will work together to shrink the world and impose costs on those people so that no matter where they are, we will try to reach them.”
The indictment directly links seven alleged hackers to the Iranian government, claiming they were employed by computer security firms working for Tehran. The strikes on the financial sector, which occurred between late 2011 and mid-2013, left hundreds of thousands unable to connect to their online accounts, costing victims tens of millions of dollars.
One of the seven alleged hackers was charged with illegally accessing the control system of the Bowman Dam in Rye, N.Y. – access that would have given him the ability to control the water levels and flow rates.