Unknown Group Sends Democratic Voters Intimidating Emails
FILE - In this May 22, 2019 file photo, Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. In a complex intimidation operation, Democratic voters in at least four battleground states including Florida and Pennsylvania have been sent emails purporting to come from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys _ but actually spoofed. Krebs, says, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, that voters should not fall for sensational and unverified claims, reminding them that ballot secrecy is guaranteed. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Democratic voters in at least four battleground states including Florida and Pennsylvania received threatening emails, falsely purporting to be from the neofascist group Proud Boys, that warned we will come after you if the recipients didn't vote for President Donald Trump.
- Associated Press
- Last Updated: October 22, 2020, 6:57 IST
- FOLLOW US ON:
WASHINGTON: Iran is responsible for emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple states aimed at intimidating the recipients into voting for President Donald Trump, U.S. officials said Wednesday night in calling out both Tehran and Russia for activities meant to interfere in the upcoming presidential election.
The activities attributed to Iran mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage. Most public election interference discussion has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China. The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the U.S. government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries, said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the U.S. would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 U.S. election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
You should be confident that your vote counts, Wray said. Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the U.S. has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned we will come after you if the recipients didnt vote for Trump.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: Iran seeks to undermine U.S. democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Irans efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-U.S. content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
Iran doesnt want to let me win. China doesnt want to let me win, Trump said. The first call Ill get after we win, the first call Ill get will be from Iran saying lets make a deal.
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others, she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated U.S. election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters confidence in our elections, Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.
Bajak reported from Boston. Associated Press writers Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta and Michael Balsamo, Colleen Long and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.
Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor