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Iranian duo charged with hacking US missile simulation software biz

Blokes allegedly lifted, cracked export-restricted rocketry design app to tout it in Iran

By Shaun Nichols, 18 Jul 2017

Two Iranian nationals have been charged with hacking a US defense technology maker to steal and sell its rocketry simulation software.

The US Department of Justice claims Mohammed Reza Rezakhah and Mohammed Saeed Ajily compromised developer Arrow-Tech to download tools that are restricted from export under America's International Traffic in Arms Regulations. It's claimed the pair, with the help of a sidekick, spent at least five years foraging around inside Arrow-Tech, from August 2007 to at least May 2013.

According to prosecutors [PDF], the duo infiltrated Arrow-Tech's corporate network to grab the company's Projectile Rocket Ordnance Design and Analysis System (PRODAS) suite, which is used to develop rockets, missiles and similar weapons.

Exports of PRODAS are restricted, meaning anyone wishing to sell the software to a customer outside the US must get approval from Uncle Sam – which, of course, is unlikely to green-light any effort to send such technology to Iran.

Ajily, a 35-year-old businessman, wanted to tout the software to Iranians and other foreigners without America's approval – so he recruited Rezakhah, a 39-year-old alleged hacker, to steal the code, it is claimed. Rezakhah was also instructed to break the program's anti-piracy protections so Ajily could flog the hot gear as he pleased outside the US, it is alleged. The software usually carries a $40,000 to $800,000 price tag.

The pair now have been indicted on counts of 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
  • Violating sanctions against Iran

In a statement on Monday, the Department of Justice said:

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 US. 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.

That third defendant, Nima Golestaneh, who ran a biz called Dongle Labs, pleaded guilty to aiding the duo by providing servers, based in Canada and the Netherlands, which were used to pull off the intrusions. Arrest warrants for Rezakhah and Ajily have been obtained – whether or not the Feds can actually nab the Iranians any time soon is unclear. ®

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