Both countries obtained voter registration data, which Iran used to send emails to intimidate voters
Russia and Iran have obtained voter registration data in an attempt to interfere with 2020 US election, FBI says
The FBI said on Wednesday evening that Russia and Iran had taken steps to undermine US confidence in the upcoming election
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said the two countries obtained voter registration data that Iran was using to send fraudulent emails intended to intimidate voters
« This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters which they hope will confuse, wreak havoc and undermine your confidence in American democracy, » Ratcliffe said during a hastily organized press conference on Wednesday evening
Ratcliffe said the fraudulent emails from Iran were « designed to intimidate voters, incite unrest and harm President Donald Trump » Iran has also been linked to a video suggesting that individuals can vote fraudulently abroad, he said
It is not known how Iran and Russia obtained the voter registration information, although most of it is publicly available in several states and others have been exposed to data breaches in the past FBI Director Chris Wray told the conference that access to voter registration data doesn’t mean your votes can or will be changed.
« We have been working for years as a community to build the resilience of our electoral infrastructure and today that infrastructure remains resilient, » said Wray. « You need to make sure your vote counts »
It’s unclear how many people received these voter intimidation emails from Iran, although researchers at cybersecurity firm FireEye said it was targeting Democratic voters in four states
« In recent years, Iranian IOs have continued to push the boundaries using bold and innovative approaches. However, this incident marks a fundamental shift in our understanding of Iran’s willingness to interfere in the democratic process, « said FireEye senior analysis director John Hultquist « While many of their operations have focused on promoting propaganda in pursuit of Iran’s interests, this incident is clearly aimed at undermining voter confidence. »
Hultquist added that the campaign was designed to stoke existing tensions and tackle fears of vulnerability to electoral security
An email campaign targeted Democratic voters in Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday, claiming to have « access to the entire voting infrastructure » and seeking to intimidate people into voting for Donald Trump were spoofed to be from the far-right group Proud Boys, and included a video claiming to complete voter registration and mail-in voting for voters in Florida, Alaska and Arizona.
Unlike other disinformation campaigns, which used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to spread foreign influence over the election as widely as possible, this campaign directly targeted voters via email. While the fake Proud Boys voter intimidation campaign matches the Justice Department’s warning about Iran and Russia on Wednesday, agencies have not confirmed whether these were the same efforts
Lawmakers and election officials note the emails intimidate voters and do not reflect the actual state of election security Wednesday, Senate Special Committee on Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Florida ) and Vice President Mark Warner (D-Virginia) issued a joint statement ensuring the security of voter infrastructure
« Our opponents abroad seek to wreak havoc and undermine voters’ beliefs in our democratic institutions, including the electoral systems and the infrastructure we rely on to properly record and report expressions of will voters, « said Rubio and Warner » They may seek to target these systems, or simply give the impression that they have tampered with or manipulated these systems, in order to undermine their credibility and our confidence in them »
Tensions between Iran and the United States escalated earlier this year following U.S. military strikes in response to a rocket attack that killed a U.S. civilian contractor at an Iraqi military base The government Iranian has vowed to retaliate, and cybersecurity experts have warned that Iran may choose a cyberattack to retaliate against the United States
U.S. officials have previously warned of an endemic disinformation campaign by China, Russia and Iran to influence the 2020 presidential election Officials have warned that these efforts could include the creation of fake websites to show unofficial ‘winners’ of the election, hack into existing poll tracking websites to modify results or spread misinformation on social media to challenge the result
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