The United States Justice Department unsealed an indictment on Friday against two Iranian men — Bahram Mechanic and Saeid Khanfar — for infiltrating voting systems in 11 states in 2016 in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The defendants were indicted on charges of engaging in a conspiracy to disable and attack voting systems, interference with electoral systems and creating fraudulent social media pages to sow distrust and disillusionment with American democracy.
“Today’s indictment demonstrates that the government will not allow disruptive cyber activities to undermine our nation’s voting system ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” wrote acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to the full implementation of our nation’s cyber laws, and we will aggressively prosecute those who engage in threats to our elections.”
Mechanic and Khanfar were arrested last month in Iran on the charges, which are said to have been brought by the U.S. Justice Department. In a brief statement on Friday, prosecutors say the charges against the two alleged members of Iran’s government-sponsored cyberbureau specifically come in response to international tension and threats surrounding Iran’s efforts to interfere in the United States’ 2020 election. In March, the Justice Department brought charges against the Iranian military wing of the country’s Quds Force, which is allegedly linked to the hacking activity against the U.S. election as well as by Shiite militia groups in Iraq. In a redacted description of Friday’s indictment, prosecutors write that Mechanic and Khanfar “was responsible for the creation and misuse of millions of malicious cyber URLs in computer systems belonging to voters, election officials, and election infrastructure.” Both suspects are alleged to have hacked U.S. voting systems from May 2016 through October 2017, establishing or exploiting a range of corrupted or hackable voter and election access systems. According to prosecutors, Mechanic and Khanfar hacked into systems in Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Colorado, Arizona, New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Delaware, Michigan, and Maine.
The two men are said to have colluded with fellow accused hacker Ashley Rhodes, who is already serving an eight-year sentence after pleading guilty to involvement in the hacking activity.
Read the full story at The New York Times.
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