On wednesday night officials of the United States accused Iran of targeting American Democrat voters with faked emails that warned that both Iran and Russia has obtained voter data that could be used to threaten and disrupt the US election.
The emails were supposed to have been sent from a group called the ‘Proud Boys’ who are an extreme right armed militia group that supports Trump and the republicans and promotes political violence. However it became evident that the email actually came from another hidden actor.
The director of National Intelligence in America eventually attributed the attack to the sate of Iran. According to an anonymous US official who works close to this event, it seems that the operation exploits a vulnerability in the Proud Boys Network. A Google Cloud spokesman said that a host company that uses the google cloud services recently dropped the domain officialproudboys.com which was used in the misleading operation. without a secure host, the domain was vulnerable to exploitation.
The hackers are believed to have used this vulnerability to send fake emails to create social unrest and the intimidation of the Democrat voters. until now it is not clear where the hackers accessed the voter data but the Director of National Intelligence stated that a large amount of voter data is publicly accessible and some of it is commercially available and is therefore in the availability of for-profit companies. A official from the American Department of Homeland Security said that authorities have identified weaknesses in the state and local election websites which could have easily been exploited and used to get voter details.
The content of the emails was quickly shared on social media and shows videos of president Trump make disapproving comments about the use of the postal mailing service for voting. The emails also show messages that claim the group is in ‘possession of all your information’ and instruct voters to change their party registration and cast their votes for Trump. Other messages are saying ‘you will vote for Trump on election day or we will come for you’.
It is not clear how this situation is in favour of Iran. American officials have said that the integrity of the election is not damaged. Surely the only efect that this attack has on America are irritation and frustration. This attack seems to be a retaliatory response to the maximum pressure approach of the Trump administration and does not have any other clear benifits to Iran. Additionally, if this is really an attack with the support of the Iranian state, then they are still sending mixed messaging about its preferable candidate!
The fact that the hack was responded to so quickly, shows that it was probably not a very sophisticated attack but acording to a senior director of analysis for Mandiant Threat Intellignece it indicates a transformation of Iranian operations. Although the focus was previously in pursuit of Iranian interests, it has now become the undermining of public confidence in democracy.