Lower than two weeks earlier than the 2020 US presidential election, tens of thousands of emails purportedly from the far-right group Proud Boys threatened to “come after” Democrats in the event that they did not vote for Trump. As officers warned on the time, the messages have been a part of a broader Iranian disinformation and affect marketing campaign meant to sow division within the US and undermine confidence within the electoral course of. Now, the US Division of Justice has unsealed an indictment that fees two Iranian nationals with finishing up these electronic mail blasts and extra, offering new particulars on an audacious election interference scheme.
Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, face fees of conspiracy, transmission of interstate threats, pc fraud, and voter intimidation. The 2 allegedly labored for the Iranian cybersecurity firm Emennet Pasargad, which Justice Division officers say has contracted with the Iranian authorities. Along with the indictment, the Treasury Division’s Workplace of Overseas Property Management introduced sanctions on Thursday towards the corporate, 4 members of its management, and the 2 defendants.
“As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian have been a part of a coordinated conspiracy wherein Iranian hackers sought to undermine religion and confidence within the US presidential elections,” stated US Lawyer for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams in an announcement on Thursday. “Because of the fees unsealed at this time, and the concurrent efforts of our US authorities companions, Kazemi and Kashian will eternally look over their shoulders as we try to convey them to justice.”
Officers stated that they consider the defendants are at the moment in Iran. The State Division introduced a reward as much as $10 million for details about Kazemi and Kashian.
Court docket paperwork say that addition to the threatening electronic mail marketing campaign, the 2 males additionally tried to compromise voter registration databases in 11 states and succeeded in a single, the place they have been capable of seize greater than 100,000 voters’ non-public information due to a misconfiguration. Officers declined to determine the state, however The Wall Road Journal reported in October 2020 that it was Alaska.
The defendants are additionally accused of hacking an unnamed media firm that provides content material administration providers to quite a few newspapers and different publications across the US. After detecting the exercise, the FBI warned the corporate, which took motion to dam the unauthorized entry. Officers say that the attackers tried to connect with the media firm’s community the day after the election, however discovered themselves shut out. Iranian hackers are identified for crafting and distributing legitimate-looking fake news articles and even seemingly hacking actual information websites to post manufactured content.
The indictment additionally accuses the defendants of finishing up different sorts of affect operations. Once more masquerading because the Proud Boys, they allegedly despatched Fb messages and emails to Republican members of Congress, Trump marketing campaign staffers, and journalists claiming that the Democratic celebration deliberate to take advantage of safety vulnerabilities in state voter registration websites, edit mail ballots, and register pretend voters. Additionally they allegedly created and distributed a pretend hacking demonstration video on Twitter, YouTube, and Fb that appeared to indicate attackers exploiting election infrastructure vulnerabilities to compromise state voter web sites and different platforms and generate fraudulent absentee ballots.