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U.S. Sanctions Iranian Intelligence Ministry and Its Leader, Citing Alleged Hacks

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Iranian Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib, center, in 2021.



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abedin taherkenareh/Shutterstock

The U.S. has imposed sanctions against Iran’s intelligence ministry and its chief, alleging they took part in malicious cyberattacks against the U.S. and its allies, the Treasury Department said Friday.

The U.S. alleges the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, also known as MOIS, and its leader, Esmail Khatib, conducted cyber operations against government and private-sector groups worldwide. This included cyber actions assessed to be sponsored by the Iranian government against Albanian government computer systems in July, according to the Treasury Department. Mr. Khatib had already faced U.S. sanctions because of his role as an official of the Iranian government.

The sanctions block all property held by the ministry and Mr. Khatib under U.S. jurisdiction and bar U.S. companies and individuals from doing business with them.

Efforts to reach MOIS and Mr. Khatib weren’t successful.

Friday’s sanctions are the latest efforts by U.S. authorities to crack down on hacking gangs allegedly connected to the Iranian government. Earlier this year, the Treasury identified a group known as MuddyWater that is sponsored by the Iranian intelligence agency and is known to exploit publicly reported system vulnerabilities to gain access to sensitive information and deploy ransomware. The Treasury said MuddyWater last year was involved in a cyber campaign targeting the Turkish government.

The sanctions also come as the U.S. attempts to revive the Iran nuclear deal that lifted harsh sanctions on Tehran in exchange for tight but temporary limits on its nuclear program. The U.S. left the agreement in 2018. Talks to resurrect the deal faltered recently over Tehran’s last-minute demands for U.S. guarantees.

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Write to Mengqi Sun at [email protected]

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