United States officials said late Friday that Iranian hackers it accused of sending threatening emails sent to thousands of Americans earlier this month had successfully accessed voter data.
The emails appeared to be from the far-right Proud Boys group and told recipients the group was “in possession of all your information” and to change party registration and vote for US President Donald Trump.
In a joint statement, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said they “are aware of an Iranian advanced persistent threat … actor targeting US state websites”, including election websites.
The agencies said this actor was responsible for the voter intimidation emails and for election-related disinformation in mid-October.
They also said the “actor successfully obtained voter registration data in at least one state”, but did not identify that state.
The FBI and DHS did not immediately respond to Reuters news agency’s request for comment.
US officials have been on high alert over the threat of potential foreign interference in the upcoming November 3 election, which pits Republican President Donald Trump against Democratic challenger Joe Biden.
During a news conference on October 21, John Ratcliffe, director of US National Intelligence, accused hackers – allegedly from Iran and Russia – of obtaining voter information and trying to influence public opinion ahead of the polls.
“We have confirmed that some voter registration information has been obtained by Iran and separately, by Russia,” Ratcliffe said at that time.
In response, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told state television that “Iran’s strong rejection of American officials’ repetitive, baseless and false claims was conveyed to the Swiss ambassador”, who acts as a mediator between the two countries.
The Islamic Republic of Iran rejects the hackneyed claims and the fabricated, amateurish and deceitful reports from the US regime’s officials, stressing once again that it makes no difference to Tehran which of the two candidates would reach the White House.
— Iran Foreign Ministry 🇮🇷 (@IRIMFA_EN) October 22, 2020
“As we have said before, it makes no difference for Iran who wins the US election,” Khatibzadeh said.
While Russian interference in the 2016 elections dominated the US news cycle for years following President Donald Trump’s victory, US officials say it does not appear to be playing a large role this time around.