Tehran condemned the U.S. criminal charges and sanctions against nine Iranians and an Iranian company for cyberattacks around the world, calling it another example of Washington's belligerence.
The U.S. indictment announced Friday alleges that the defendants carried out many of their intrusions on behalf of the Iranian government, specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The indictment names the Mabna Institute, an Iran-based company, and says the defendants were its leaders, associates or "hackers for hire."
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi slammed the charges in a statement issued Saturday.
"These allegations against employees of an Iranian IT company are groundless and merely reflect the US government's resentment of Iran," he said.
Ghassemi called on the US to provide evidence for its allegations, otherwise the charges are nothing more than a "gimmick aimed at stopping or preventing the scientific growth of the Iranian people."
The US Justice Department said the defendants hacked the computer systems of approximately 320 universities in 22 countries. Nearly half of the universities targeted are in the US, it said.
In addition to the universities, Washington said the hacking also affected 47 domestic and foreign private-sector companies, as well as the US Department of Labour, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the states of Hawaii and Indiana, the United Nations and the UN Children's Fund.
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It alleges that the stolen information was used by the Revolutionary Guard or sold for profit in Iran.
In addition to the criminal charges, the Treasury Department announced sanctions against the defendants that places restrictions on their business activities outside of Iran.