view original post

Kazemi and Kashian are not in U.S. custody.

False pride: The newly unsealed charges connect Kazemi and Kashian to a voter intimidation campaign that Trump administration officials attributed to Iran in the waning days of the 2020 campaign. The hackers masqueraded as members of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, sending emails that included the threat, “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” U.S. authorities said at the time.

Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community said in its 2020 election post-mortem that Iran had waged a “covert influence campaign intended to undercut” then-President Donald Trump’s campaign without directly promoting his rivals, in part to “sow division and exacerbate societal tensions.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei authorized the campaign, which included both “messaging and cyber operations,” the intelligence community said.

Rattling the doorknobs: Kazemi and Kashian tried to hack into “approximately 11 state voter websites” in September and October 2020, prosecutors said. In one case, they found and successfully breached “a misconfigured computer system” belonging to a state election office, which allowed them to download private voter data.

Leveraging a megaphone: On Nov. 4, 2020, the day after the election, the hackers tried to log into a media company’s website using credentials they’d stolen during the previous two months, according to the indictment. “Because of an earlier FBI victim notification,” the indictment said, the company “had by that time mitigated the conspirators’ unauthorized access and these log-in attempts failed.”

The charges: Kazemi and Kashian, whom prosecutors described as “experienced” hackers, face one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, intimidate voters and transmit interstate threats; one count of voter intimidation; and one count of transmission of interstate threats. Kazemi faces two additional counts, one for unauthorized computer intrusion and one for computer fraud.

Sanctions for good measure: The Treasury Department on Thursday sanctioned Kazemi, Kashian and three of their colleagues at the Iranian technology firm for their role in Iranian cyber operations.