Iranians blamed for 'Enemies of the People' website during US elections

Iranians blamed for 'Enemies of the People' website during US elections
A website reportedly created to sow discord and division in the US during the presidential elections may be been created by Iranian 'cyber actors'.
3 min read
24 December, 2020
Iran has denied involvement [Getty]

A website created to sow division and discord during the US elections may have come from Iran, US security agencies have said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security Cyber and Infrastructure Security agency found that "Iranian actors" made the ‘Enemies of the People’ website.

The website, which appears no longer to be active, appeared during the US election and featured death threats towards US election officials.

It also accused US officials involved in the election of "treason".

Photographs of Democrats and Republicans with rifle crosshairs photoshopped on them were posted on the website, and officials were doxed by having their reported home addresses revealed.

Former FBI director Christopher Wray and ex CISA director Christopher Krebs were both targeted.

In addition to targeting officials, the website also targeted employees of Dominion Voting Systems, the voting-machine vendor at the centre of conspiracy theories about vote manipulation.

A statement from the FBI and the DHS said the website demonstrated "an ongoing Iranian intent to create divisions and mistrust in the United States and undermine public confidence in the US electoral process".

The identity of the website creator has not been found, and cybersecurity experts revealed one of the pages was hosted by Russia, though they said these links did not prove Russian involvement.

A spokesperson for Iran’s UN mission denied Iranian involvement.

"Iran is not involved in inciting violence and creating unrest in the United States," Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran’s UN mission, said in an email to Reuters.

"Iran itself is the largest victim of cyberattacks, including Stuxnet, and has always emphasized the need for the establishment of a global mechanism to prevent cyberattacks at the United Nations, and at other international institutions."

Alleged Iran involvement in the US election

In October, US officials accused Iran of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.

The officials did not lay out specific evidence for how they came to pinpoint Iran, but the activities attributed to Tehran would mark a significant escalation for a country some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage.

The announcement had been made at a hastily called news conference 13 days before the election.

The allegations underscored the US government's concern about efforts by foreign countries to influence the election by spreading false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.

Such direct attempts to sway public opinion are more commonly associated with Moscow, which conducted a covert social media campaign in 2016 aimed at sowing discord and is again interfering this year, but the idea that Iran could be responsible suggested that those tactics have been adopted by other nations, too.

"These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries," said John Ratcliffe, the government's top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.

"You should be confident that your vote counts," Wray said.

"Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism."

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