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Iranians behind San Diego port ransomware attack

Two Iranian computer hackers were charged Wednesday in connection with a multimillion-dollar cybercrime and extortion scheme that targeted government agencies, cities and businesses, including the port of San Diego.

Faramarz Shahi Savandi, 34, and Mohammad Mehdi Shah Mansouri, 27, are accused by the Justice Department of creating ransomware known as SamSam that encrypted data on the computers of more than 200 victims, starting in January 2016, demanding a ransom in bitcoin to get their data back.

The Justice Department stressed that the hackers were not connected to the Iranian government. The two men made about $6m from the attacks and caused the victims of the scheme to lose more than $30m.

In late September this year, the Port of San Diego revealed it had been hit by a cyber attack, affecting more than 500 workers. The port mobilised a team of industry experts and local, regional, state and federal partners to fix the issue.

“SamSam ransomware is a dangerous escalation of cybercrime,” said Craig Carpenito, the US attorney for New Jersey, where Wednesday’s indictment was unsealed. “This is a new type of cybercriminal. Money is not their sole objective. They are seeking to harm our institutions and our critical infrastructure.”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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