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Westchester Officials Welcome Indictment Of Iranians In Cyberattack

The Bowman Avenue Dam is located just off I-287 in Rye Brook, near Rye's border with Harrison. Iranian computer hackers who were indicted Thursday accessed the dam's computer in 2013, but failed to breach its water controls, federal prosecutors said.
The Bowman Avenue Dam is located just off I-287 in Rye Brook, near Rye's border with Harrison. Iranian computer hackers who were indicted Thursday accessed the dam's computer in 2013, but failed to breach its water controls, federal prosecutors said. Photo Credit: Google Maps

This story has been updated.

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino and other elected leaders welcomed Thursday's federal indictment of seven Iranian computer workers accused of hacking into the networks of financial institutions but failing to access controls to a small dam in Rye Brook.

The dam is located near Interstate-287 at Rye's border with Harrison -- and close to several schools in the villages of Port Chester and Blind Brook.

The indictments mark the first time the Obama Administration has sought action against Iranians for a wave of computer attacks that began five years ago.

Astorino, who lives in Hawthorne, complained that he and other local officials had to rely on newspaper accounts in December 2015 to learn about the cyberattack that occurred two years earlier.

"The indictments today are one more stark reminder that there are people in the world who want to do us harm and that when it comes to protecting the public against those threats our vigilance must be constant," Astorino said.

At a Washington, D.C. news conference, the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office said the seven men charged in the attack were employed by Iran-based computer companies and had ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a branch of Iran's armed forces.

"The Iranian hackers who targeted the dam in Rye show just how close this can hit to home," Julie Killian, a Rye City Council member who is running for state Senate, said. "It also demonstrates how vulnerable we are not just to someone stealing our bank password but also gaining access to critical infrastructure," Killian said in a press statement.

The indictment identified the person responsible for the Bowman Avenue Dam attack as Hamid Firoozi, 34. Firoozi accessed the Rye Brook dam's computer system between Aug. 28, 2013 and Sept. 18, 2013 which "allowed him to repeatedly obtain information regarding the status and operation of the dam," prosectors said.

Although that might have allowed the hacker to control the "sluice gate" used to regulate the flow of floodwater between Port Chester and Rye, the computer network was disconnected for maintenance during the Iranian cyberattack, Astorino and Rye's city manager said.

"The bad-actors are not going away and it is imperative that officials in both parties work closely together to stay vigilant against all threats, both physical and on-line," Killian added.

County Legislator David Gelfarb of Port Chester, who represents the district where the dam is located, also applauded Thursday's indictments.

"We must have a zero tolerance policy toward efforts by these spies to damage the homeland and jeopardize our lives and property," Gelfarb said.

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