State Department offers $10M for information on Iranian election interference
The State Department is offering a $10 million reward for information on two Iranian hackers who allegedly participated in state-sponsored cyber operations designed to interfere with the 2020 U.S. presidential election.
The two individuals, Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian, 27, were charged with computer fraud, voter intimidation and transmission of interstate threats according to a federal indictment unsealed in November. The activity took place between August 2020 and November 2020.
The State Department is offering the reward under its “Rewards for Justice” program, which has posted equal bounties for information about ransomware groups DarkSide and REvil.
The indictment of the Iranians painted a picture of an extensive operation aimed at fomenting partisan divides ahead of the 2020 election. The campaign included allegedly sending threatening emails to Florida Democrats aimed at intimidating them into voting for Trump, while posing as the right-wing nationalist group Proud Boys. U.S. intelligence quickly deemed that the emails were created by spoofing legitimate domains and were part of a foreign interference effort.
The individuals also sent messages to top Republicans and members of the media alleging the Democratic Party was going to exploit “serious security vulnerabilities” in state voter registration systems to “edit mail-in ballots or even register non-existent voters,” the U.S. government alleged.
The indictment also charged the hackers with attempting to gain access to an unnamed media company’s system on Nov. 4, 2020. They were unsuccessful because the FBI had notified the company, which then blocked the hackers’ access.
The Treasury Department last fall sanctioned six Iranians, including two individuals and their employer, the Iranian cyber company Emennet Pasargad. Emennet Pasargad had been sanctioned under a former company name, Net Peygard Samavat Company, for cybersecurity services to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.