The US Department of Labor, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, dozens of private firms and non-governmental organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund were also allegedly targeted.
Iran has condemned the new U.S. sanctions against several Iranian nationals and an engineering company as an act of provocation, saying that Washington policy will fail to prevent Iran's technological progress.
Tehran responded with Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, condemning the move and calling it "provocative, illegal and without justification".
According to United States authorities the cyber attacks were carried out by the Mabna Institute in Iran, which was founded by two of the people charged on Friday, and specifically focused on giving Iranian industries a competitive advantage.
The approach has been employed with past indictments accusing Iranian hackers of a digital break-in of a NY dam, Chinese military officials of large-scale hacks at energy corporations and Russians of a massive breach of Yahoo user accounts.
This is not the first time when the USA government names and indicts hackers involved in cyberespionage operations believed to have been ordered or coordinated by foreign intelligence agencies, but it is one of the largest state-sponsored hacking campaigns ever to be prosecuted by the DoJ.
"They hacked the computer systems of almost 320 universities in 22 countries".
Local anti-gun violence march set for Saturday
One of the largest gatherings is expected to take place this afternoon at 1 p.m., at San Francisco City Hall, 1 Dr. Enough is enough", said Demetri Hoth, a student from MSDHS.
This company engaged in cyberespionage on behalf of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, one of Iran's military intelligence agencies, as well as on behalf of other Iranian government clients, such as universities and research organizations that would benefit from the stolen data. That amount of data is said to far exceed the total content of the Library of Congress.
The cyberattacks, beginning in at least 2013, pilfered more than 31 terabytes of academic data and intellectual property from 144 US universities and 176 universities in 21 other countries, the US Department of Justice said.
Friday's indictment in US District Court in NY said the Iranian hackers did extensive background research of university professors before sending them "spearphishing" emails tailored to their academic interests and scholarly published articles.
"Indubitably, the U.S. will not be able to use such ploys to stop or prevent Iranian people's scientific progress", said Qassemi. "One hundred forty-four of the victims are American universities", Rosenstein was quoted saying.
"By stealing intellectual property from universities, these hackers attempted to make money and gain technological advantage at our expense".
"Just in case you're wondering, they're not admiring our work", FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said. That led some former intelligence officials to question whether the USA was opening the door for other countries to take similar actions against contractors who work for the US government.