A group of Iranian computer hackers reportedly found themselves in trouble with the local regime after dipping their toes into lucrative but forbidden online gambling operations.
On Wednesday, real-time intelligence threat monitors Recorded Future posted an article to their blog recounting the history of an online forum that catered to Iran’s hacking community. The Ashiyane Forum, which was managed by a security contractor with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was shut down in August 2018 for still unexplained reasons.
The Ashiyane Forum was run by the Ashiyane Digital Security Team (ADST), a ‘gray hat’ firm that married technical prowess with loyalty to Iran’s government. The ADST took particular pride in defacing the websites of international organizations and governments deemed to be Iran’s enemies, apparently in coordination with the IRGC. (No word on whether they were responsible for the 2014 hacking of the Sands Bethlehem casino’s website to protest Sheldon Adelson‘s anti-Iran stance, but since those hackers were eventually identified as Iranian, it seems a safe bet.)
But in March 2018, ADST figures informed forum members that they were shutting down their activities until further notice. The shutdown was reportedly sparked after the government discovered that forum members were running online gambling sites, which are strictly illegal in Iran. (On that score, Iran and Adelson are kindred spirits.)
This wasn’t the first time the forum had been linked to illegal online gambling. In 2013, a forum database was leaked online, and a Gmail address connected with the forum’s database support was linked to the creation of a number of Iranian-facing ‘persianpoker’ domains.
Recorded Future’s Insikt Group research team estimates that there are several thousand Iranian online gambling sites that quickly materialize only to vanish equally swiftly once the regime’s watchdogs take notice. ADST leader Behrooz Kamalian was reportedly arrested last summer in relation to these sites but was released in early November, possibly catching a break due to his history of assisting the regime.
The ADST members’ online gambling activities appear to have been focused internally, unlike those of fellow ‘Axis of Evil’ member North Korea, which reportedly earns as much as a billion dollars per year in badly needed hard currency from running online gambling sites catering to international customers. Still, kinda makes you wonder what sort of gambling hijinx Iraq is getting up to these days…