Messages that threaten people to ‘vote for Trump or else’ are part of foreign adversaries’ attempts to interfere with the Nov. 3 election, s US Federal Agencies.
US Federal officials claim that Iranian threat players are behind 2 separate email campaigns that assailed Democratic voters this week with threats to “vote for Trump or else.” The campaigns claimed to be from violent extremist group, Proud Boys.
2 specific email campaigns, 1 on Tues. Oct. 20 & 1 on Wed., Oct. 21 threatened Democratic voters in Alaska, Arizona & Florida that attackers accessed “all of your information.”
They warned that there would be serious repercussions if voters didn’t cast their ballot for President Trump in the upcoming election, says a Wed. Proofpoint report.
This research came after a report from WUFT in Florida that the FBI was investigating threatening emails sent to Democratic voters in the state.
The emails of both campaigns were sent from addresses linked to the far-right, male-only group Proud Boys — “Proud Boys <info[@]officialproudboys[.]com>” on Oct. 20 messages & “Proud Boys <info[@]proudboysusa[.]com>” on Oct. 21 messages.
However, federal officials said in a press conference late Wed. that Iran had obtained some voter registration information, & was actually behind the attack.
“We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite voters & damage President Trump,” Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe commented in the briefing.
Iran also is distributing other content to mislead voters, including a video that implies that individuals can cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas, Ratcliffe outlined “These videos are not true,” he maintained, calling the actions of Iran to interfere with the election “desperate attempts by desperate adversaries.”
Reuters has reported that govts. sources say, while US officials suspect the Iranian Govt. was involved, concrete evidence remains inconclusive. Meanwhile, others in the security research community told ZDNet that they could not confirm the attribution to Iran.
‘Proud Boys’ Content
The video in question is a Proud Boys-branded video demonstrating a Kali Linux user filling out voter registration & absentee ballots for Alaskan citizens, according to the report from Proofpoint, whose researchers obtained a copy.
“We only observed 2 intended recipients of these messages, both of whom appear to reside in Florida,” wrote researchers. The video seemed to be taken off the Internet not long after researchers viewed it, they explained.
The emails observed by Proofpoint demonstrates that attackers did obtain sensitive personal information of voters & also shows those behind the threats changing up their tactics to avoid detection.
Messages in the Oct. 20 campaign, which Proofpoint separated into 2 sets, show that the threat players have the home addresses of some of their victims. Researchers traced messages in set one to a PHPmailer script hosted on a likely compromised Saudi Arabian insurance company website, while Set 2 was routed through the website of an Estonian textbook publisher, as previously reported by Vice.
The email attacks & attempts to spread misinformation are a change from recent & more typical tactics used by threat players to interfere in the US elections, such as impersonation of the Democratic National Committee, & various fraudulent voter registration portals, researchers commented.
“Previous activity used political themes to entice users to click on links or open attachments, but did not appear especially politically motivated,” they explained in the report.
The American election season has seen a ramp up & variation in methods by state-sponsored actors to interfere with the 2020 US Elections, which has been complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This US election will see many more voters choose to vote by mail, increasing the number of votes the postal system will handle. People also have opted to vote early to avoid long lines on election day, a situation that could invite attacks on voting machines.
These various aspects provide a wider ‘playing-field’ for attackers to target in the run-up to the official US election day on Nov. 3, experts observed.