The US has announced criminal charges against two suspected Iranian computer hackers accused of launching a cyber campaign to meddle in the 2020 presidential election while also sanctioning six Iranian officials for their roles in the alleged foreign interference plot.
Seyyed Mohammad Hosein Musa Kazemi, 24, and Sajjad Kashian 27, are each facing charges that they obtained confidential US voting information from at least one state election website.
They are also accused of sending threatening emails to intimidate voters and sending a video that contained disinformation about purported election infrastructure vulnerabilities.
The indictment alleges they also gained access to a US company's computer network in a plot to disseminate false claims about the election but their plot was foiled thanks to intervention by the FBI and the company, which the indictment did not identify by name.
"This indictment details how two Iran-based actors waged a targeted, coordinated campaign to erode confidence in the integrity of the US electoral system and to sow discord among Americans," Assistant Attorney General Matthew G Olsen of the Justice Department's National Security Division said.
The effort attracted publicity in the run-up to the November 2020 election, when law enforcement and intelligence officials held an unusual evening news conference two weeks before the vote to accuse Iran's government of orchestrating an email campaign aimed at intimidating Democratic voters in battleground states so they would vote for then-president Donald Trump.
That included a message that purported to be from the Proud Boys group that threatened Democratic voters with physical harm if they did not change their party affiliation and vote for Trump.
US officials say the goal of the operation was not to change the results of the election but to sow confusion and discord and create the perception that the results could not be trusted.