The warnings issued Thursday indicate the heightened security posture of the US government days ahead of the presidential election. They come a day after Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe announced at a hastily arranged news conference that Iran and Russia were interfering in the election and both countries had obtained some voter registration information, though Ratcliffe did not specify what information they had and whether it was publicly available.
Ratcliffe said Iran was responsible for spoofed emails that appeared to come from a far-right group and threatened Democratic voters, adding that they were intended to damage President Donald Trump — an assertion that drew criticisms from Democrats, who accused the Trump administration of trying to conflate the interference threat posed by Russia and Iran.
The federal warnings about the stolen data were published in two separate alerts Thursday written jointly by the FBI and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and provided more detail on what Ratcliffe and FBI Director Christopher Wray had referred to on Wednesday.
Neither of the warnings issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency suggested that Russian or Iranian hackers have compromised US election systems. But past attacks should have the public on alert, officials said. Iranian attackers have previously impersonated legitimate media to spread anti-American propaganda meant to disrupt the election, the warnings said. Iranians have also allegedly used distributed denial-of-service attacks, database attacks and phishing campaigns to sow chaos.
Russian state-sponsored attackers, meanwhile, have attempted to penetrate “dozens” of state and local government and aviation networks, the warnings said.
“As of October 1, 2020, [Russian attackers] exfiltrated data from at least two victim servers,” the alert said.
Ratcliffe said at his news conference that the intelligence community was alerting the public to the actions Iran and Russia had taken to interfere in the election.
“We have already seen Iran sending spoofed emails designed to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump,” Ratcliffe said, adding that the US government had not seen the same actions from Russia but was “aware that they have obtained some voter information just as they did in 2016.”
Democrats criticize Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe’s statement that the emails, which purported to be from the far-right group the Proud Boys, were trying to damage Trump drew a rebuke from multiple Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, who was briefed on the matter on Thursday.
“I think we have to be very careful about any statements coming out about the election from the intelligence community at this time,” she told reporters as she left the House Intelligence Committee spaces.
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