“Iran and Russia have taken specific actions to influence public opinion related to our elections,” Ratcliffe said.
“First, we have confirmed that some voter registered information has been obtained by Iran and separately by Russia. This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will sow confusion chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy.”
Wray said that despite the efforts, it’s not possible for either country to change Americans’ votes.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” he said.
Ratcliffe said Iranian intelligence sent “spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite unrest and damage” President Donald Trump. He didn’t elaborate on how the effort would harm Trump since the emails were sent to Democratic voters, threatening them against voting for former Vice President Joe Biden.
The emails were first identified by law enforcement and elections officials in Florida and Alaska before being turned over to federal authorities, U.S. officials told The Washington Post earlier Wednesday.
“You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the emails warned.
The emails also said they were sent by the Proud Boys, which were “in possession of all your information,” instructing voters to change their party registration and cast a vote for Trump.
“Change your party affiliation to Republican to let us know you received our message and will comply,” the emails state. “We will know which candidate you voted for. I would take it seriously if I were you.”
The Proud Boys are a far-right, male-only organization that supports Trump. The group also has ties to white supremacy.
The emails show a sender with the address firstname.lastname@example.org but Google Cloud spokesman Ted Ladd and Proud Boys Chairman Enrique Tarrio both said the domain was recently dropped from Google Cloud Services, leaving it without a secure host and potentially vulnerable to outside exploitation.
“There is no reason for us to send an email like that. To whoever did this, I condemn these people,” Tarrio said, adding he believes the email address was “spoofed.”
Officials in Florida’s Alachua County and the Alaska Democratic Party said they were made aware of the emails on Tuesday morning and that the FBI had since become involved in the investigation. The Washington Post also reported instances of individual voters in Pennsylvania and Arizona receiving the emails, seemingly targeting Democrats using digital databases.
“The email appears to be a scam and we will be initiating an investigation into the source of the email along with assistance from our partners on the federal level,” Alachua County Sheriff’s Office officials said.
Cristopher C. Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said his office was aware of the emails while tweeting a warning on election-related rumors.
“FACT: Ballot secrecy is guaranteed by law in all states,” Krebs wrote. “These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”