Two US women charged with conspiracy to hack Iran’s military and government website

Two women charged in the US with conspiring to hack into Iran’s official and military websites in 2010 and 2012 were arrested in Saudi Arabia last week, authorities said. 

The arrests come as Iranian officials have expressed growing concern that the two women are working on behalf of US adversaries. 

Saeed Abedini and Nadia Khatami, both of Queens, New York, were charged in January with attempting to hack military and intelligence sites. 

On Wednesday, the US Marshals Service said they were in Saudi and US courts to face extradition to the US. 

Khatami and Abedinis are expected to appear in a New York federal court on Friday, according to a US Justice Department statement. 

Abedini is charged with hacking into the military-related sites of the country’s Ministry of Defense, the National Defense Organization and the National Security Council, as well as a website that lists the names of foreign journalists. 

In the indictment, the Justice Department said the pair used a USB thumb drive they stole from a Saudi government-linked IT contractor to hack Iranian government websites. 

“The alleged conspirators allegedly used the USB thumb drives to hack at least four different Iranian government sites, including Iran’s Supreme Leader, the head of the National Intelligence Agency, the director of the military intelligence agency, the chief of staff of the Foreign Ministry and the director-general of the Supreme Military Council,” the Justice department said.

“These hacking operations resulted in unauthorized access to the government of Iran’s servers.” 

The indictment also alleged that the women “used a different USB thumb disk that was stolen from the United Arab Emirates” to hack the Iranian Ministry of Science and Technology website. 

Prosecutors said the women were arrested by Saudi authorities after the FBI was tipped off. 

Abedini was arrested in November 2012 at her parents’ home in the United States. 

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which carry up to 30 years in prison. 

An arraignment is set for Thursday. 

This article was updated on Feb. 23 at 10:23 a.m. to clarify the names and nationalities of the accused.

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