A pair of Iranian hackers ran a sophisticated online campaign aimed at interfering with last year’s presidential election by threatening and influencing American voters, federal officials said Thursday.
As part of their campaign, the conspirators got confidential U.S. voter information from at least one state election website and sent threatening email messages to intimidate people before they cast their ballots, prosecutors said.
The disinformation duo also created a video that detailed false voting vulnerabilities, and even gained unauthorized access to a U.S. media company’s computer network — but were stopped before they could do any further damage to it, authorities said.
Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, were both charged with conspiracy, voter intimidation and transmission of interstate threats. Kazemi was also charged with unauthorized computer intrusion, computer fraud and knowingly damaging a protected computer.
The accused hackers were equal opportunity disruptors. According to the indictment, hackers targeted Republicans with messages claiming voter fraud, and Democrats with “false flag” threats from the Proud Boys.
The fake Proud Boys sent Facebook messages and emails to Republican senators and members of the House, individuals associated with former President Donald Trump’s campaign, White House advisers and members of the media.
The false election messages claimed that the Democratic Party was planning to exploit “serious security vulnerabilities” in state voter registration websites to “edit mail-in ballots or even register nonexistent voters.”
Hackers also sent intimidating emails to tens of thousands of registered voters, threatening them with physical injury if they did not change their party affiliation and vote for Trump.
“The FBI remains committed to countering malicious cyber activity targeting our democratic process,” said Bryan Vorndran, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.
Even the day after the election, on Nov. 4, the suspects tried to use stolen credentials to gain access to a media company’s computer network to disseminate more false information, the indictment said. But the log-in attempts failed.
Kazami and Kashian are not in custody, and Williams’ statement suggests it’s unclear if they ever will be. “Kazemi and Kashian will forever look over their shoulders as we strive to bring them to justice,” Williams said.
If convicted, the suspects face between five and 10 years in prison.©2021 New York Daily News. Visit at nydailynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.