Illustration of a hooded figure in dark room typing on a laptop. In the background, the wall is covered in ones and zeroes.

Getty Photographs | Bill Hinton

Three Iranian nationals charged with hacking into US-based computer networks despatched ransom needs to the printers of at minimum some of their victims, according to an indictment unsealed right now. The ransom needs allegedly sought payments in exchange for BitLocker decryption keys that the victims could use to get back access to their data.

The 3 defendants continue being at significant and outside the US, the DOJ explained.

“The defendants’ hacking marketing campaign exploited recognized vulnerabilities in commonly applied network gadgets and software program programs to get entry and exfiltrate details and details from victims’ computer methods,” the US Division of Justice stated in a push launch. Defendants Mansour Ahmadi, Ahmad Khatibi, Amir Hossein Nickaein “and some others also performed encryption attacks towards victims’ computer system programs, denying victims access to their techniques and info except if a ransom payment was produced.”

The indictment in US District Court docket for the District of New Jersey describes a several incidents in which ransom demands were sent to printers on hacked networks. In one particular circumstance, a printed concept despatched to an accounting agency allegedly claimed, “We will promote your data if you determine not to pay back or attempt to get better them.”

In yet another incident, the indictment reported a Pennsylvania-dependent domestic violence shelter hacked in December 2021 obtained a message on its printers that said, “Hello. Do not just take any action for restoration. Your data files may well be corrupted and not recoverable. Just call us.”

Khatibi afterwards “despatched an electronic mail to a agent of the Domestic Violence Shelter inquiring for payment of 1 Bitcoin,” the indictment claimed. The shelter in the long run paid out the equal of $13,000 to the hacker’s Bitcoin wallet, the indictment explained, incorporating that Khatibi then “presented decryption keys to help the Domestic Violence Shelter to restore entry to its programs and facts.”

Before sending the ransom demand, “a member of the conspiracy acquired unauthorized access to the Domestic Violence Shelter’s laptop or computer technique and launched an encryption attack by activating BitLocker, thereby denying the Domestic Violence Shelter accessibility to some of its techniques and information,” the indictment stated. BitLocker is an encryption device utilized in Home windows.


Victims provided little enterprises, govt agencies, nonprofit programs, instructional and spiritual establishments, and “numerous crucial infrastructure sectors, which includes wellness treatment facilities, transportation companies and utility vendors,” the DOJ push release mentioned. The 3 indicted hackers and co-conspirators “gathered payments in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies from sure victims that paid the ransom to decrypt their knowledge,” the indictment claimed.

The Iranians hacked networks in a number of countries, “achieve[ing] unauthorized entry to the pc programs of hundreds of victims in the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel, Iran, and in other places,” the DOJ stated. The US company accused Iran’s governing administration of “creat[ing] a safe and sound haven in which cyber criminals acting for particular obtain prosper and defendants like these are capable to hack and extort victims, together with critical infrastructure suppliers.”

In April 2021, “Nickaein sent a ransom need interaction to the printers” of an Illinois enterprise referred to as “Accounting Business 2,” the indictment said. The ransom demand allegedly told the organization to call an electronic mail account controlled by Nickaein and integrated the following textual content:


IF YOU ARE Examining THIS, IT Implies YOUR Information IS ENCRYPTED AND YOUR Personal Delicate Details IS STOLEN!

Read through Carefully THE Total Guidelines TO Keep away from ANY Problems

YOU HAVE TO Speak to US Promptly TO Take care of THIS Challenge AND MAKE A Offer!

We will offer your knowledge if you determine not to pay back or consider to get well them.

Before sending the ransom desire, Nickaein hacked into the firm’s network, “stole knowledge, and launched an encryption assault using BitLocker, thereby denying Accounting Organization 2 obtain to specified of its units and facts,” the indictment claimed.

This is not the 1st hacking campaign to use the tactic, sometimes termed “print bombing,” of sending ransom requires to printers on the infected network.