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U.S: Iran and Russia Obtained Voter Registration Data to Interfere in U.S. Election

'If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox, don't be alarmed and do not spread it,' the U.S. Director of National Intelligence said on Wednesday.

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This story originally appeared on PCMag

Iran has been sending emails to U.S. voters in an attempt to intimidate them at the polls, according to U.S. officials. The warning comes after voters in Alaska, Arizona and Florida reported receiving emails with the subject line: “Vote Trump or Else.” 

Sean Rayford/Getty Images via PC Mag

The emails claim to come from the far-right organization the Proud Boys and warn the recipient that all their personal information, including phone number and address, has fallen into the group’s hands. “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you,” the messages threaten. 

But according to U.S. intelligence, the emails are actually the work of an Iranian group out “to intimidate voters, incite social unrest and damage President Trump,” John Ratcliffe, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, said during a surprise news conference on Wednesday. 

“Additionally, Iran is distributing other content to include a video that implies that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots, even from overseas,” he added. “This video, and any claims about such allegedly fraudulent ballots, are not true. These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries.”

However, Iran isn’t alone in attempting to manipulate U.S. voters. Ratcliffe also claimed Russia has taken “specific actions” to influence public opinion during the elections. Specifically, U.S. intelligence has “confirmed” foreign actors with both countries have obtained some voter registration information, which explains how the Iranian group was able to message the U.S. voters via email.

“This [voter registration] data can be used by foreign actors to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy,” he added. 

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So far, U.S. intelligence hasn't observed Russia sending spoofed emails to manipulate U.S. voters. During the short eight-minute press conference, Ratcliffe also didn't go into specifics about how the U.S. determined Iran's and Russia's involvement.

But in response, the U.S. is trying to combat the election interference attempts with the truth so that the public won’t fall for the scare tactics. “Do not allow these efforts to have the intended effect,” Ratcliffe added. “If you receive an intimidating or manipulative email in your inbox, don’t be alarmed and do not spread it. This is not a partisan issue.”

Michael Kan

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Michael has been a PCMag reporter since October 2017. He previously covered tech news in China from 2010 to 2015, before moving to San Francisco to write about cybersecurity.