As we approach the 2020 election, scammers are working hard for their own nefarious ends. The National Intelligence Agency revealed this week that foreign actors from Iran accessed public registration records to target voters with fraudulent emails.
“We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest, and damage President Trump,” John Ratcliffe, the Director of National Intelligence, said during a news conference. “You may have seen some reporting on this … or you may have been one of the recipients.”
Registered Democrats reported receiving threats from a sender claiming to be the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group that gained national attention with Donald Trump refused to disavow them at the first presidential debate.
The emails appeared to be from a domain registered to the group. However, they were actually generated by Iranian hackers who exploited lax security for the domain. This trick–called “spoofing”–allowed the hackers to make it appear that the messages were sent by the Proud Boys.
In addition, Iran is suspected in a campaign to encourage people to cast fraudulent ballots overseas.
With the election already fraught with false claims of voter fraud and mail-in ballot cheating, foreign adversaries are taking advantage of fear and confusion to sow discord. The misinformation campaign might not completely erode the foundations of our democracy, but it certainly doesn’t help build confidence, either.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” he said. “Even if the adversaries pursue further attempts to intimidate or attempt to undermine voter confidence, know that our election systems are resilient and you can be confident your votes are secure.”
Voter registration logs are publicly available, and it’s easy for anyone–including foreign actors–to access them. Records can also be requested through the Freedom of Information Act. You can’t do anything about that, but you can be a smart and savvy citizen.
Ratcliffe urged all Americans to “do their part” and “not allow these efforts to have their intended effect.”
“If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox don’t be alarmed and do not spread it,” he said.
Don’t share fraudulent emails or messages on social media, as that can quickly spread misinformation. Your best course of action is to simply delete the message. In addition to this misinformation campaign out of Iran, run-of-the-mill criminals are also running phishing scams related to voter registration and absentee ballots. Remember, the US government sends letters through the postal service, not emails.