Hacker (illustration)
Hacker (illustration) iStock

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on 10 Iranians and an Iranian company for alleged hacking of hundreds of universities in the U.S. and abroad and the theft of "valuable intellectual property and data", reported AFP.

The Mabna Institute "engaged in the theft of personal identifiers and economic resources for private financial gain" and for the benefit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Treasury Department said.

The two founders of the Mabna Institute were among the 10 people whose assets are subject to U.S. seizure, it said.

The Justice Department said nine of the 10 had been indicted separately for conspiracy to commit computer intrusions and other crimes.

Since 2013, the Mabna Institute carried out cyber intrusions into the computer systems of 144 American universities, the Treasury Department said, and 176 universities in 21 foreign countries.

"For many of these intrusions, the defendants acted at the behest of the Iranian government and, specifically, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement quoted by AFP.

"The Department of Justice will aggressively investigate and prosecute hostile actors who attempt to profit from America's ideas by infiltrating our computer systems and stealing intellectual property," Rosenstein added.

Last September, the U.S. Treasury Department announced new sanctions targeting 11 companies and individuals accused of aiding Iran's Revolutionary Guards or cyber attacks on U.S. banks.

A month earlier, Trump signed into law a bill which imposes sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards. Iran had blasted the United States over the bill, threatening U.S. military bases in the region.

More recently, a bill introduced at the House of Representatives would sanction companies and entities linked to the Revolutionary Guard.

The bill, sponsored by Republican congressman and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce and Democratic congressman Eliot Engel, “authorizes the administration to sanction entities in which the IRGC has an ownership stake of less than 50 percent,” hence “raising the stakes for anyone doing business with the IRGC.”

The Islamic Republic has promised a “crushing” response if the United States designates the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)