On July 17, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two Iranian nationals were charged in the hacking of a Vermont company best known for software for aerodynamics analysis and projectile design. Mohammed Reza Rezakhah, 39, stole or unlawfully cracked pieces of valuable software and then Mohammed Saeed Ajily, 35, sold the software to Iranian entities, including universities and military and government entities. The following is the Department of Justice press release with a link to the superseding indictment.
Two Iranian Nationals Charged in Hacking of Vermont Software Company
An indictment was unsealed today charging Mohammed Reza Rezakhah, 39 and Mohammed Saeed Ajily, 35, both Iranian nationals, with a criminal conspiracy relating to computer fraud and abuse, unauthorized access to, and theft of information from, computers, wire fraud, exporting a defense article without a license, and violating sanctions against Iran. The court issued arrest warrants for both defendants.
Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security Dana J. Boente, Acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia A.P. Cowles of the District of Vermont, Assistant Director Scott Smith of the FBI’s Cyber Division, and Special Agent in Charge Vadim Thomas of the FBI’s Albany, New York Field Office made the announcement.
According to the allegations in the indictment filed in Rutland, Vermont, beginning in or around 2007, Rezakhah, Ajily, and a third actor who has already pleaded guilty in the District of Vermont for related conduct, conspired together to access computers without authorization in order to obtain software which they would then sell and redistribute in Iran and elsewhere outside the U.S. Ajily, a businessman, would task Rezakhah and others with stealing or unlawfully cracking particular pieces of valuable software. Rezakhah would then conduct unauthorized intrusions into victim networks to steal the desired software. Once the software was obtained, Ajily marketed and sold the software through various companies and associates to Iranian entities, including universities and military and government entities, specifically noting that such sales were in contravention of U.S. export controls and sanctions.
As part of this conspiracy, in October 2012, Rezakhah hacked a Vermont-based engineering consulting and software design company best known for its software that supports aerodynamics analysis and design for projectiles. This software is designated as a “defense article” on the U.S. Munitions List of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), meaning it cannot be exported from the U.S. without a license from the U.S. Department of State. Ajily thereafter promoted the same software as one of the products he could offer to his Iranian clients.
The charges in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI’s Albany Cyber Squad investigated the case. The case is being prosecuted by Acting U.S. Attorney Eugenia A.P. Cowles of the District of Vermont and Deputy Chief Sean Newell of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided significant assistance in this matter.
Click here for the indictment.