2 hackers charged with defacing US sites as retaliation for Iranian general's killing

9/16/2020 5:51:00 AM

Two foreign hackers indicted for defacing dozens of U.S.-based websites with pictures of late Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani alongside the message, 'Down with America.'

over 100 U.S. service members in Iraq.Iranian Behzad Mohammadzadeh and Palestinian Marwan Abusrour were charged with conspiracy to commit intentional damage to a protected computer and two counts of intentional damage to a protected computer in an indictment unsealed in a federal court in Massachusetts on Tuesday.

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MORE: Trump defends killing of Iranian general, accuses him of 'plotting imminent and sinister attacks' on AmericansBoth men are overseas and not under arrest, with their chances of facing these charges slim.Shortly after Soleimani's death was confirmed, Mohammadzadeh"transmitted computer code to approximately 51 websites hosted in the United States and defaced those websites by replacing their content with pictures of the late General Soleimani against a background of the Iranian flag, along with the message, in English, 'Down with America' and other text," the indictment said.

Abusrour is accused of providing Mohammadzadeh access to at least seven sites, where the 19-year-old Iranian hacker posted the images and text."Those website defacements were part of the defendants' ongoing efforts to hack into and deface websites across the globe," the indictment alleged.

Prosecutors did not say whether the two hackers acted at the behest of the Iranian government.But Tehran has taken steps to avenge the death of Soleimani, who was the country's second-most powerful figure as the decorated commander of its elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

South Africa's State Security Agency said Monday that it is providing"the necessary attention ... to ensure that no harm will be suffered by the U.S. Ambassador," Lana Marks, the noted handbag designer and a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

The security agency's statement came afterSunday that U.S. intelligence was concerned the Iranian government was weighing an assassination attempt against Marks, who became U.S. envoy in October 2019.Press Office of Iranian Supreme Leader/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (not seen) meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 18, 2016.Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani attends Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (not seen) meeting with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) in Tehran, Iran, Sept. 18, 2016.

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Iran's Foreign Ministry has denied the report as"baseless" and"predictable ... anti-Iranian accusations and falsification ahead of the U.S. presidential election."Trump used the report to threaten an overwhelming response against Iran, telling Fox News Tuesday,"If they do anything to anybody, they will be hit a thousand times harder than they hit us."

MORE: 2 Americans among 3 service members killed in rocket attack on base in Iraq: Officials Read more: ABC News »

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