An indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice revealed how Iranian hackers managed to interfere in the 2020 elections to harm Donald Trump‘s campaign. According to investigations they attacked election websites and obtained information on more than 100,000 American voters.
According to the Department of Justice, the conspirators created unique messages for each side of the U.S. political spectrum to capitalize on the perceived fears of the target audiences.
How did the Iranians interfere?
At issue are Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian, two Iranian nationals who the Justice Department says “attempted to influence” the presidential election by posing as members of the Proud Boys to send emails to Democratic voters, threatening them to vote for former President Trump.
Hosein and Kashian also went so far as to send emails to Trump administration officials, Republican members of Congress, campaign officials and news organizations claiming that Democratic Party “vulnerabilities in the election infrastructure were being exploited to change votes.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “The Department of Justice’s actions demonstrates that we will hold state-sponsored actors to account for attempting to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and U.S. institutions.”
“As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. Presidential elections. Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state’s voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said of the case.
Officials declined to name the states targeted by the operation, but initial reports identified registered voters in Florida and Alaska as recipients of the e-mails from the alleged Proud Boys.
Separate from the indictments, the State Department said it is offering a $10 million reward for information about Kazemi and Kashian’s activities. In addition, the Treasury Department also sanctioned the two individuals along with an Iranian cybersecurity firm.
“A move designed to damage Trump’s campaign”: John Ratcliffe
It was in late October 2020 when then-Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and FBI Director Chris Wray held a press conference announcing that Iran and Russia were identified as having taken steps to interfere in the election.
At the time, Ratcliffe said the move was designed to damage the Trump campaign.
He said that Iran has already sent “spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage Trump.”