Computer giant Microsoft claimed on Friday that a group linked to the Tehran regime was behind a recent cyberattack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, carried out after a cartoon contest said to insult Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
• Also read: Hezbollah denounces Charlie Hebdo cartoons by Khamenei
• Also read: Macron pays tribute to the victims of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher
• Also read: Eight years after the attacks, Charlie Hebdo is the target of Iranian anger
These hackers posed as the “Holy Souls,” but they are actually Iranian cybersecurity firm Emennet Pasargad, which Microsoft calls Neptunium, writes Clint Watts, an official at the American company, in a blog post.
In early January, the Holy Souls announced they had received the personal information of more than 200,000 Charlie Hebdo subscribers and customers, and released a sample of it.
According to Microsoft, they had put the information up for sale for 20 bitcoins, or about $340,000 at the time.
Contacted by AFP, Charlie Hebdo declined to comment.
“Whatever one thinks of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial decisions, the disclosure of the personal information of tens of thousands of its customers poses a serious threat,” Microsoft said.
Charlie Hebdo had announced an “international competition” of cartoons to produce “the funniest, most wicked caricature of Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” which has been rocked by unprecedented demonstrations for several months. These drawings caused a diplomatic crisis between Paris and Tehran.
Emennet Pasargad was the employer of two Iranians accused in the US of conducting a disinformation operation and attempting to influence the US presidential election in November 2020.