Two DIY hackers: election interference, influence, & intimidation in 2020 POTUS race

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https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-...4664da40ba

EXCERPTS: Two suspected Iranian computer hackers have been charged in a broad campaign of election interference aimed at intimidating American voters during last year’s presidential race and undermining confidence that the results of the contest could be trusted.

[...] U.S. intelligence officials said in a March assessment that Iran’s efforts were aimed at harming Trump’s reelection bid, and probably authorized by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but that there was no evidence that Tehran or any other foreign actor had done anything to change the vote totals.

The indictment, filed in federal court in Manhattan and unsealed Thursday, accuses Iranian nationals Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi and Sajjad Kashian of helping carry out the scheme. The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against the men, some of their colleagues and the company they worked for.

The defendants, described in the indictment as experienced hackers who worked as contractors for a cybersecurity firm, are not in custody and are believed to be in Iran still. But officials hope at minimum that the indictment and accompanying sanctions will restrict their ability to travel. Each faces a broad array of charges, including voter intimidation, transmission of interstate threats and computer crimes.

Asked Thursday whether the defendants’ activities were endorsed by the Iranian government, a Justice Department official who briefed reporters on a conference call noted that the indictment alleges that the company the men worked for — formerly known as Eeleyanet Gostar — provided services to the government. But the indictment does not directly implicate the government because the Justice Department can rely only on unclassified, admissible evidence that it can bring to court, the official said.

Court documents allege vast efforts to spread disinformation about the presidential contest and to intimidate and pressure voters. Some of the activities persisted even after the election.

As part of the cyber campaign, officials say, the hackers attempted in the weeks before the election to compromise voter websites in 11 states, and successfully downloaded voter information related to more than 100,000 people in one state.

While the defendants did not use that information to attempt to change vote totals, officials say, they created the appearance that the election results could not be trusted by leaving the false impression that it was possible to submit fraudulent ballots.

They also sent Americans what officials describe as carefully curated messages, specifically tailored to appeal to — and divide — members of both major political parties.

That included messages that purported to be from a far-right group, the Proud Boys, that threatened Democratic voters with physical harm if they didn’t change their party affiliation and vote for Trump... (MORE - missing details)
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