THE NEUTRAL ZONE
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has concluded that threatening emails meant to intimidate and deter registered Democrats from voting for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were not from the far-right group “Proud Boys.” They originated from a disinformation campaign linked to Iran. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe stated that the Iranian government hack was designed “to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump.”
Many Democratic leaders have spoken out about their skepticism regarding Ratcliffe’s statements that the hack was specifically designed to hurt Trump. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “From the briefing, I had the strong impression it was much rather to undermine confidence in elections and not aimed at any particular figure.” The majority Democrat House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the DHS, argued that the disinformation campaign in question was “clearly not meant to harm President Trump,” adding that Americans should be skeptical of Ratcliffe because he has “too often politicized the Intelligence Community to carry water for the President.”
According to Google, an Iranian-linked disinformation campaign sent 25,000 emails to Gmail users, 90% of which were caught by Gmail’s spam filters. A Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency representative stated that hacks were meant to “intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in [United States] elections.” Intelligence officials believe that Russian and Iranian hackers are saying they have “voter files” to cause chaos and distrust in the integrity of the American election infrastructure. FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that voters should remain confident in U.S. voting systems, adding that “unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Trump signed into law the Defending the Integrity of Voting Systems Act, making it a federal crime to hack or attempt to hack federal voting systems. Russia and Iran continue to deny any meddling with U.S. elections.
“Proud Boys Emails Are Bogus” – Security Boulevard – Alleged Hoax Email Snapshot
U.S. government concludes Iran was behind threatening emails sent to Democrats – Washington Post – 10/21/2020
By suggesting the group had gained access to privileged data, and also possibly penetrated electronic systems to detect how people were voting, the emails seemed designed to create the appearance of an election breach, said cybersecurity researchers. Such a move may serve to undermine confidence in the integrity of the democratic process without posing a genuine risk to the election, these researchers said.
US blames Iran for spoofed Proud Boys emails threatening Democrat voters – ZDNet – 10/22/2020
Spoofing the identity of violent extremist group Proud Boys, the emails threatened registered Democrat voters with repercussions if they didn’t vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming US Presidential Election. The senders claimed to have “gained access into the entire [US] voting infrastructure,” but appeared to use public voter registration databases to target Democrat voters in Alaska, Arizona, and Florida.
Proud Boys Hoaxes, Threats, and Spam Are Surging Before the Election – The Daily Beast – 10/21/2020
In the weeks immediately preceding and following President Donald Trump’s debate-night nod to the Proud Boys, voters have reported a slew of spam messages that claim to come from the far-right paramilitary group. But many or all of those messages are hoaxes. Some of them originate from a serial prankster who has previously posed as anti-fascists. Others, according to the FBI, are coming from Iran.
US officials link Iran to emails targeting Democratic voters – Fox News – 10/22/2020
A Google spokesperson told Fox News that it stopped “90% of the approximately 25,000 emails sent” to Gmail users as part of the Iranian campaign. Google also “removed one video file on Drive and one video on YouTube with fewer than 30 views, and terminated the associated Google accounts.” Google is working with the FBI, law enforcement and others “to identify and remove any related content,” the spokesperson said.