An Iranian and a Palestinian hacker have been charged in the United States for defacing multiple websites across the United States in response to the killing of Iranian military commander General Qasem Soleimani by US forces.
Soleimani was a major general in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and headed IRGC's Quds Force when he was killed by a US military strike in January this year. His killing sparked massive outrage among the Iranian public and the Iranian government said the US military action would be met with "severe revenge".
A couple of days after Soleimani was assassinated, hackers calling themselves members of the "Iran Cyber Security Group" defaced the website of the US government's Federal Depository Library Programme (FDLP) as well as a number of other websites as well.
The hackers inserted a banner on the home page of FDLP's website which read that 'this is only a small part of Iran's cyber ability'.
"We will not stop supporting our friends in the regions, the oppressed people of Palestine, the oppressed people of Yemen, the people, and the Syrian government, the people and government of Iraq, the oppressed people of Bahrain, the true mujahideen resistance in Lebanon and Palestine. They will be supported by us," hackers wrote on the defaced FDLP website.
"Martyrdom was his reward for years of implacable efforts. With his departure and with God's power, his work and path will not cease and severe revenge awaits those criminals who have tainted their filthy with his blood and the blood of other martyrs of last night's incident," they added.
On Tuesday, the US Department of Justice said that two hackers- 19-year-old Behzad Mohammadzadeh from Iran and 25-year-old Palestinian Marwan Abusrour, were indicted for damaging multiple websites across the United States as retaliation for the United States' military action in January 2020 that killed Qasem Soleimani.
According to the indictment, Mohammadzadeh has boasted about defacing more than 1,100 websites since 2018 in support of Iran and Abusrour has claimed to have defaced at least 337 websites around the world since 2016. The two hackers have been working together since at least December last year and are presently hiding in Iran and the Palestinian Authority respectively.
After Soleimani was killed, Mohammadzadeh hacked into 51 websites hosted in the US and replaced their content with pictures of the late general against a background of the Iranian flag along with a warning message. On 7th January, Abusrour provided Mohammadzadeh with access to at least seven websites which they defaced and boasted about their actions online.
“The hackers victimized innocent third parties in a campaign to retaliate for the military action that killed Soleimani, a man behind countless acts of terror against Americans and others that the Iranian regime opposed. Their misguided, illegal actions in support of a rogue, destabilizing regime will come back to haunt them, as they are now fugitives from justice,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.