Seven Iranian hackers were indicted this morning by the Department of Justice for cyber-related crimes stemming from various attacks in 2012 and 2013 targeting financial institutions and a dam in New York. The announcement comes a little over two months after the implementation of the nuclear deal signed in July 2015 and the release of several prisoners held by both countries.
It is likely that none of the seven hackers will see a day in court, much like the five members of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army who stand accused of attempting to steal trade secrets. In both cases, the accused can avoid prosecution by remaining in their countries.
The Obama Administration has pledged to take a tough stance on cyber-attacks, specifically those that target sensitive industries. And the announcement comes after several high profile hacks over the past few years—OPM, Sony, etc.
The attacks carried out by the Iranian hackers are seen as a response to the Stuxnet attack believed to be orchestrated by the United States and several other allies.
Counterintuitively, this may signal that relations between Iran and the US are on a better footing. Prior to signing the nuclear deal, something of this magnitude could have scuttled any potential détente. Now, as relations are thawing, both sides may be more willing to air grievances, knowing that the consequences aren’t as high. That said, this also shouldn’t be seen as a green light for either country to return to the pre-deal rhetoric.