The United States Department of Justice charged former US Air Force employee who defected to Iran and passed National Defense Information to Iranian state hackers. The defendant is Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, a former US Air Force Intelligence Specialist and AFOSI Special Agent.
Access to TOP SECRET national defense information
Witt, also known as ‘Fatemah Zahra’ or ‘Narges Witt’, started her service for the Air Force in 1997, and served till 2008. She later worked as a DOD contractor until 2010.
During her duty, she was granted access to crucial and TOP SECRET confidential national defense information relating to foreign intelligence and counterintelligence of the United States.
Four Iranian hackers charged
The DOJ also indicted four Iranian hackers who carried out cyber attacks based on the information provided by Witt. Some of the attacks carried by Iranian hackers include spear-phishing campaigns, malware attacks, and social media-based malicious operations.
The most outstanding hacker from the lot is Behzad Mesri who is a top hacker and a member of the Iranian cyber-espionage group ‘Charming Kitten’. Mesri was charged in November 2017 with hacking HBO, stealing scripts for unaired episodes of Game Of Thrones series season 6 and later attempting to extort HBO execs for $6 million.
The other three hackers include Mojtaba Masoumpour, Hossein Parvar, and Mohamad Paryar who were indicted of committing computer intrusions targeting current and former USG agents.
Defection to Iran
In 2012 Witt attended a conference in Iran called ‘Hollywoodism’ organized by Iranian company New Horizon Organization and sponsored by the IRGC. The conference's main topic was condemning American moral standards, promoting anti-US propaganda, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denial.
The DOJ noted that Witt befriended some of the individuals she met at the conference, one of whom later arranged her defection to Iran in August 2013, where she received housing and computer equipment facilities from the Iranian government. Ever since, she has been working with the IRGC hacking department to help them in cyber-attacks against her former Air Force colleagues.
Collaboration with Iranian hackers
Apart from delivering national defense information to Iranian hackers, Witt was also accused of working with the four hackers to create a fake Facebook account impersonating a former colleague, and thereby befriending other special agents to extract information.
Witt's defection and collaboration with the Iranian state actors helped Iranian intelligence gain a deep understanding of how US operations are conducted both internally and overseas.
The United States Department of Justice has indicted Witt for all the above-mentioned accusations and have issued an arrest warrant.