Fake intimidation emails from Iran that were sent to American voters are “a new and clumsy step forward” in Tehran’s cyber machinations, a U.S. security official told Just the News.
Two top U.S. security officials Wednesday night revealed Iran’s role in the direct-email efforts, during a surprise press conference to announce that Iran and Russia had obtained registration information on American voters.
The data can be used to send false information and incite unrest, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said in the joint appearance with FBI Director Chris Wray.
“To that end, we have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump,” Ratcliffe said.
The direct-email scheme follows a rash of cyber hacking efforts from Tehran, targeting its own citizens, as well as victims around the world.
Reports recently have surfaced alleging that the MuddyWater cyber-espionage group linked to Iran has tried to breach systems in the Middle East.
Last month, the Justice Department indicted three Iranians on charges of hacking computer systems in order to steal information on U.S. aerospace and satellite technology.
Also last month, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an Iranian group believed to present a serious cyber threat.
“The Iranian regime uses its Intelligence Ministry as a tool to target innocent civilians and companies, and advance its destabilizing agenda around the world,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement. “The United States is determined to counter offensive cyber campaigns designed to jeopardize security and inflict damage on the international travel sector.”
The direct-email effort, though, is different, and represents a new, clumsy-yet-effective form of cyber-malice, the security official told Just the News.
The emails claimed to be from the controversial Proud Boys organization, and warned Democrats: “You will vote for Trump or we will come after you,” according to reports.
“It’s old school, in that it’s an obvious strong-arm tactic,” the official said. “It also shows that the senders don’t fully understand their targets. Anyone who got the email would know it’s a fake.”
The emails at first appeared to come from servers located in Estonia and Saudi Arabia, a Brevard County, Fla. election official reportedly said.
The FBI traced the source to Iran, Ratcliffe and Wray revealed at their press conference.
The Wednesday night announcement from Ratcliffe and Wray quickly prompted speculation on what Tehran hoped to accomplish by sending the emails.
“Iran was trying to flip Florida blue,” one commentator, known as EconChick/IntelChick, wrote on Twitter. “That would tip election to Biden. FBI had to warn these targeted Democrats they were falsely intimidated by Iran.”
Ratcliffe and Wray slammed both Russia and Iran for efforts to obtain U.S. voter information.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” Ratcliffe said.