Microsoft analysts have revealed that state-backed Iranian hackers have been targeting satellite, defense, and pharmaceutical companies worldwide. The motive behind these cyber-attacks is believed to be the gathering of intelligence and the potential development of domestic production in these industries, which have been heavily impacted by US sanctions.
Due to strict sanctions imposed by the US, Iran has faced limitations in acquiring military hardware and has struggled to receive medical supplies from Western companies. As a result, Iran has turned to targeting foreign firms to obtain trade secrets that would aid in domestic production. The industries targeted by the hackers are those in which Iran may face difficulties in acquiring necessary resources due to the sanctions.
Microsoft analysts noted that the hackers have been using a simple hacking technique to breach organizations. By guessing common passwords in bulk, the hackers have successfully infiltrated email accounts. In some cases, the intruders stole data from victim networks, while in others, they covertly monitored email accounts. This technique has allowed the hackers to operate undetected.
While the exact reason for targeting satellite, defense, and pharmaceutical companies remains unclear, the increased incentive resulting from the sanctions suggests that Iran is seeking valuable intelligence in these sectors.
Iran has a history of denying allegations of hacking and has yet to respond to these latest claims. Microsoft has not disclosed the names of the targeted US companies, and the US National Security Agency has not commented on the matter.
In a separate incident, Chinese-backed hackers recently exploited a digital consumer key stolen from Microsoft. This allowed them unfettered access to US government emails. Microsoft has detailed how this cyber-criminal group pulled off one of the largest heists in both corporate and government circles.
Overall, these cyber-attacks highlight the ongoing concerns and threats posed by state-backed hacking groups targeting industries and critical infrastructure around the world.