Today the Department of Justice announced an indictment of two alleged Iranian hackers who are charged with a scheme to interfere in the 2020 US election by perpetrating what the government calls a “Voter Intimidation and Influence Campaign.”
In October 2020, the campaign was identified and attributed to Iran quickly by private and public sector analysts. The US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) announced details of the plot ahead of the election. The DOJ indictment adds detail to the alleged Iranian conspiracy, perpetrated by individuals it says have ties to Iranian state interests.
The document alleges the hackers targeted elections websites for eleven states. The hackers were able to download voter information for 100,000 voters in a US state (referred to as “State-1”) in the document. It says the hackers then sent messages– posting as volunteers for the Proud Boys– to “Republican Senators, Republican members of Congress, individuals associated with the Presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, White House advisors, and members of the media, falsely claiming that the Democratic Party was planning to exploit ‘serious security vulnerabilities’ in state voter registration websites to ‘edit mail-in ballots or even register non-existent voters.”
Subsequently, the hackers allegedly sent a video– posting it to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter– purporting to contain evidence of the plot. At the same time, they sent emails to “tens of thousands of registered voters, at least some of whom were among those whose information the members of the conspiracy had obtained” from the hacked state voter information they had acquired with the goal of threatening them “with physical injury if they did not change their party affiliation and vote for President Trump.” They also allegedly hacked a media company’s content management system, presumably with the goal to potentially publish disinformation in advance of the election.kazemi-indictment-signed-and-stamped
Justin Hendrix is CEO and Editor of Tech Policy Press, a new nonprofit media venture concerned with the intersection of technology and democracy. Previously, he was Executive Director of NYC Media Lab. He spent over a decade at The Economist in roles including Vice President, Business Development & Innovation. He is an associate research scientist and adjunct professor at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. Opinions expressed here are his own.