Iranian cyberattackers are stepping up their game after US President Donald Trump re-enforced severe economic sanctions on the country last month, the AP reports. Much of the cyber espionage activity targets American officials who make sure the sanctions stay in place.
Cerfta, a cybersecurity organization based in London, has been tracking the activity of threat group Charming Kitten and its recent campaign of phishing attacks – the most common threat among Iranian state-backed groups. The AP reports Charming Kitten has been attempting to hack email accounts of US Treasury members, defenders, detractors, Arab atomic scientists, Iranian civil society figures, DC think tank employees, and enforcers of the US-Iran nuclear deal.
Researchers with Cerfta discovered an open server Charming Kitten mistakenly left exposed on the Internet, where they pulled the Gmail and Yahoo addresses the group had targeted. While it’s hard to tell who on the list was compromised, analysts report it sheds light on Iran’s priorities. Experts say its interest in foreign nuclear experts, and nuclear technology overall, is alarming.
“This is a little more worrisome than I would have expected,” said Frederick Kagan, scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and target of the campaign, in the AP report.
The specific list of targets indicates Iran’s interest in watching people in charge of the United States’ nuclear operations, as well as those linked to the 2015 nuclear deal. While the more recent phishing campaign is not advanced, Kagan says signs point to a state-sponsored threat.
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