Members of an Iranian hacking group accessed confidential US voting information and infiltrated a media outlet’s computer network in an attempt to intimidate Democratic voters in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election, federal prosecutors said Thursday.
The two suspects, who were indicted by a grand jury in Manhattan federal court, downloaded confidential voter data from 100,000 voters in an unnamed state in September and October 2020, prosecutors said.
They then used the data in an attempt to intimidate voters by sending out threatening emails while posing as members of the far-right group the Proud Boys, according to the indictment.
“You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure,” the email stated.
“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you. Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply,” it continued.
Also in October 2020, the hackers sent emails and social media messages to members of the Trump campaign, Republican lawmakers and members of the media that claimed Democrats were planning to alter mail-in ballots and register non-existent voters, prosecutors charged.
The messages included a video that purported to show a member of the Proud Boys hacking into state voter websites and using stolen voter information, according to the feds.
The hackers also gained access to an unidentified media company’s computer network, and sought to use it to further spread disinformation about the 2020 presidential election.
The hackers’ attempt to use the media outlet’s network was thwarted by the FBI and the company itself, prosecutors said.
The two charged suspects, Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, worked for a cybersecurity company, Emennet Pasargad, that has worked with the Iranian government, prosecutors said.
The suspects are not in custody and US authorities are offering a reward of up to $10 million for information about their activities.
In a statement, Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said investigators are looking to bring Kazemi and Kashian to heel.
“The United States will never tolerate any foreign actors’ attempts to undermine our free and democratic elections,” he said.
“As a result of the charges unsealed today, and the concurrent efforts of our U.S. government partners, Kazemi and Kashian will forever look over their shoulders as we strive to bring them to justice,” Williams added.