The U.S. government on Thursday unsealed an indictment that accused two Iranian nationals of their involvement in cyber-enabled disinformation and threat campaign orchestrated to interfere in the 2020 presidential elections by gaining access to confidential voter information from at least one state election website.
The two defendants in question — Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kazemi, 27 — have been charged with conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, intimidate voters, and transmit interstate threats, voter intimidation, transmission of interstate threats, with Kazemi additionally charged with unauthorized computer intrusion. Both the individuals are currently at large.
The influence campaign’s goal was to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans, the Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement, characterizing the two individuals as “experienced Iran-based computer hackers” who carried out the attacks during their work as contractors for an Iranian company named Emennet Pasargad (formerly Eeleyanet Gostar).
As part of the coordinated election interference scheme, Kazemi and Kazemi are alleged to have attempted to compromise nearly 11 state voter registration and information websites between September and October 2020, successfully breaching a misconfigured computer system in an unnamed state to retrieve details associated with more than 100,000 voters.
The siphoned data was then used to simulate intrusions that the Democratic Party was supposedly planning to carry out by exploiting election infrastructure vulnerabilities to register non-existent voters and edit mail-in ballots, all of which were captured in the form of a “False Election Video” that was distributed to Republican Senators, White House advisors, and several members of the media.
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