Two suspected Iranian hackers were charged for posing as supporters of former President Donald Trump and sending threatening messages to U.S. voters, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
Iranians Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, were indicted and sanctioned for their alleged involvement in the misinformation campaign, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). At some points, the pair claimed to be “Proud Boys volunteers” who accused the Democratic Party of planning to exploit “serious security vulnerabilities” in messages sent to Republican lawmakers and Trump campaign officials.
“This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the U.S. electoral system and to sow discord among Americans,” DOJ National Security Division Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen said in a statement.
“The allegations illustrate how foreign disinformation campaigns operate and seek to influence the American public,” Olsen added. “The Department is committed to exposing and disrupting malign foreign influence efforts using all available tools, including criminal charges.”
Separate actions aimed at Democratic or Republican voters included fake videos reportedly showing election fraud, an email campaign of disinformation and an attempt to gain access to a U.S. media company after the election, according to the DOJ. The Iranian hackers posed as Proud Boys in messages threatening physical harm to tens of thousands of Democratic voters if they didn’t vote for Trump in the presidential election.
“As alleged, Kazemi and Kashian were part of a coordinated conspiracy in which Iranian hackers sought to undermine faith and confidence in the U.S. presidential election,” Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
“Working with others, Kazemi and Kashian accessed voter information from at least one state’s voter database, threatened U.S. voters via email, and even disseminated a fictitious video that purported to depict actors fabricating overseas ballots,” Williams added.
Kazemi and Kashian are experienced hackers who were contracted by an Iran-based company, according to the DOJ. Both men were charged with conspiracy to abuse and intimidate voters, conspiring to commit computer fraud and send interstate threats.