DOJ unveils new election hacking charges

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday charged two Iranian nationals with interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, alleging they used wide-ranging cyber and disinformation efforts in an attempt to sow doubt in the election process.

Yikes: Between August and November of last year, Iranian nationals Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian are alleged to have targeted the election websites of 11 states, successfully obtaining information on more than 100,000 U.S. voters by compromising one state’s voter information website.

They then allegedly posed as members of the “Proud Boy” organization to send emails to thousands of registered Democratic voters, including some of those whose information was stolen, threatening them unless they voted for now-former President Trump.

The two individuals also sent Facebook messages and emails posing as Proud Boys to White House officials, Republican members of Congress and news organizations claiming that the Democratic Party was attempting to exploit election infrastructure vulnerabilities and change votes, the DOJ said.

Big yikes: The individuals are accused of having attempted to leverage vulnerabilities in a U.S. media organization’s network to spread disinformation the day after the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The unnamed media group provided a content management system to dozens of newspapers and other publications. The FBI tipped off the company ahead of time, enabling the vulnerabilities to be fixed, and the effort was unsuccessful.

Other agencies involved: In addition to the indictments, the State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information on Kazemi and Kashian’s activities. The Treasury Department sanctioned the two men along with the Iranian cybersecurity company they worked as contractors for, and four Iranian leaders of the company.