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WATCH: Justice Department announces charges against 9 Iranians in massive hacking scheme

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department on Friday announced charges against 9 Iranians in a government-sponsored hacking scheme that pilfered sensitive information from hundreds of universities, private companies and government agencies.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein held a news conference today on what the Justice Department called a “major cyber law enforcement announcement.” Watch his comments in the player above.

The Iranian defendants are accused of working at the behest of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to steal large quantities of academic data from hundreds of universities in the United States and abroad as well as email accounts belonging to employees of government agencies and private companies.

Prosecutors say the defendants were affiliated with the Mabna Institute, an Iranian company that since at least 2013 has contracted with the Iranian government to conduct hacking.

The defendants are unlikely to ever be prosecuted in an American courtroom since there’s no extradition treaty with Iran. But the case is part of the government’s “name and shame” strategy to publicly identify foreign hackers and put their countries on notice.

Also Friday, the Treasury Department designated the Mabna Institute and the nine Iranians for sanctions.

“Today, not only are we publicly identifying the foreign hackers who committed these malicious cyber intrusions, but we are also sending a powerful message to their backers, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran: your acts do not go unnoticed,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

“We will protect our innovation, ideas and information, and we will use every tool in our toolbox to expose those who commit these cybercrimes. Our memory is long; we will hold them accountable under the law, no matter where they attempt to hid,” he added.

PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.