Two hackers, one of whom was an Iranian teenager, were charged with destroying at least 51 websites with pro-Iranian sentiments. The unsophisticated attacks were essentially a hacktivist response to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani – one of Iran’s key military officials – by US forces in January.
The indictments named by a federal grand jury are Behzad Mohammadzadeh, who according to the indictment is “approximately 19 years old,” and Marwan Abusrour, whose age is not indicated in the documents. The two are charged with conspiracy to deliberately damage a protected computer and willful damage to a protected computer.
Several small business owned websites, as well as a few individual Americans, have been defaced with slogans like “Down with America”. The hacker who identified himself as “Mr. Behzad” left his telegram handle on these websites. The edge reported in January. The websites identified by The edge These included those run by a retired California dentist who was supposed to promote his free dental services in Uganda and an Oklahoma company that makes feed troughs for farm animals.
Abusrour, who is “a stateless citizen of the Palestinian Authority,” gave Mohammadzadeh access to compromised websites, including some in the US, the complaint said. In January Mohammadzadeh or Abusrour or both replaced the original content of the websites with their own images and text. The images included photos of Soleimani and the Iranian flag, as well as messages such as Soleimani “was not a person / he was a belief / beliefs never die”.
The hacked websites referred viewers to Mohammadzadeh’s public Instagram account, the indictment said. The Instagram account in turn referred people to zone-h.org, “a website on which people who identify themselves as computer hackers regularly post screenshots of the results of their network break-ins and website defacements under their hacker pseudonyms,” it says in the indictment. According to the indictment, Mohammadzadeh had around 400 jobs on this website as of January 2020.
Defacing small websites – as the two men are accused of – is not particularly ingenious. “I don’t work for the government. I work for my home country Iran, ”said Mr. Behzad The edge in January.