Two members of an Iranian hacking group allegedly accessed confidential US voting information in an attempt to disrupt the 2020 presidential election, federal prosecutors announced on Thursday.
The two suspects, Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian worked for the cybersecurity company Emennet Pasargad that has worked with the Iranian government, according to the prosecutors.
“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,” the New York Post reported. “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.”
The prosecutors additionally alleged that the hackers sent messages to members of the Trump campaign, Republican lawmakers, and members of the media saying that Democrats were altering mail-in ballots and registering fake voters.
“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 New York Post added. “The hackers’ attempt to use the media outlet’s network was thwarted by the FBI and the company itself, prosecutors said.”
The two men were charged with computer fraud, conspiracy, voter intimidation, and transmission of interstate threats.
Kashian faces up to 11 years in prison for his charges. Kazemi faces additional charges, including computer intrusion and damaging a protected computer, and is facing up to 26 years in prison.
“The United States will never tolerate any foreign actors’ attempts to undermine our free and democratic elections,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “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.”