How Iran Attempts to Destroy the 2020 US Presidential Election
Not even two weeks before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, tens of thousands of emails allegedly from the far -right group Proud Boys threatened to “follow” Democrats if they didn’t vote for Trump. As officials warned at the time, the messages were about a wider disinformation in Iran and a campaign of influence intended to sow division in the U.S. and undermine confidence in the electoral process. Today, the U.S. Department of Justice has opened a lawsuit accusing two Iranian nationals of carrying out email blasts and more, providing new details in a daring manner. electoral interference.
Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, face charges of conspiracy, transmission of interstate threats, computer fraud, and voter intimidation. The two allegedly worked for Iranian cybersecurity company Emennet Pasargad, Justice Department officials said contracted with the Iranian government. In addition to the accusation, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions Thursday against the company, four members of its management, and two defendants.
“As said, Kazemi and Kashian are part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers seek to undermine faith and trust in the U.S. presidential election,” said U.S. Attorney for New York’s Southern District Damian Williams in a statement on Thursday. “As a result of the charges not being sealed today, and the simultaneous efforts of our U.S. government partners, Kazemi and Kashian will always look over their shoulders as we try to bring them to justice. “
Officials say they believe the accused are now in Iran. The State Department has announced a reward of up to $ 10 million for information about Kazemi and Kashian.
Court documents say that in addition to the threatening email campaign, the two men also tried to compromise voter registration databases in 11 states and succeeded in one, where they were able to seize more than 100,000 voters private data due to misconfiguration. Officials declined to identify the state, however The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2020 it was Alaska.
The defendants are also accused of hacking an unnamed media company that offers content management services to several newspapers and other publications around the US. After learning of the activity, the FBI alerted the company, acting to block unauthorized access. Officials say the attackers tried to connect to the media company’s network the day after the election, but found themselves shut down. Iranian hackers are known to create and distribute legitimate look fake news articles or even seemingly hacking into real news sites post generated content.
The indictment also accuses the defendants of performing other types of influence operations. Disguised again as the Proud Boys, they allegedly sent Facebook messages and emails to Republican members of Congress, Trump campaign staff, and journalists claiming the Democratic party planned to take advantage of security vulnerabilities in state voter registration sites, editing mail ballots, and registering fake voters. . They also created and distributed a fake video of the hacking demonstration on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook showing attackers exploiting vulnerabilities in the electoral infrastructure to compromise the websites of state voters and other platforms and can generate fraudulent ballots without.