Voters in Florida and Alaska reported receiving menacing and misleading emails on Tuesday that used false claims about public voting data to threaten voters: “Vote for Trump on Election Day or we are going to come after you.” (There isn’t a approach for any group to know for whom particular person voters solid their ballots.)
One of many emails, obtained by The New York Instances, got here from an deal with that instructed an affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group. However metadata from the e-mail exhibits that it didn’t come from the displayed electronic mail deal with — “email@example.com” — however as a substitute originated from an Estonian electronic mail server.
The e-mail obtained by The Instances had been despatched to a voter in Gainesville, Fla., and was almost equivalent to dozens of others that had been reported within the metropolis. Voters in Brevard County, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, additionally reported receiving related emails.
Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville stated in an interview that the emails have been “a really brutish approach of attempting to intimidate folks from going to the polls,” however that not one of the voters he had talked to appeared to have been fooled.
“Most individuals who had gotten it realized that it was a rip-off and that there was actually no approach folks have been going to search out out who you vote for,” Mr. Poe stated. “So now I feel individuals are just a bit irritated by it, or assume it’s sort of comical how ham-fisted it was — however don’t appear very panicked.”
Federal and native regulation enforcement authorities in Florida are investigating the emails, and have put out alerts on social media to warn voters.
“We right here on the Sheriff’s Workplace and the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections are conscious of an electronic mail that’s circulating, presupposed to be from the Proud Boys,” the Alachua County Sheriff’s Workplace wrote on Facebook. “The e-mail seems to be a rip-off and we will likely be initiating an investigation into the supply of the e-mail together with help from our companions on the federal stage.”
Sustain with Election 2020
Christopher C. Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Safety Company, an arm of the Division of Homeland Safety, said on Twitter that the company was “conscious of threatening emails with deceptive information concerning the secrecy of your vote.”
“Poll secrecy is assured by regulation in all states,” Mr. Krebs added. “These emails are supposed to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections.”
T.J. Pyche, a spokesman for the Alachua County elections supervisor, stated the county had begun receiving studies round 10 a.m. on Tuesday that folks have been receiving the emails. He estimated that a whole lot of individuals within the county had acquired them.
The county contacted native regulation enforcement officers, the F.B.I. and the Division of Homeland Safety. On the College of Florida, emails have been faraway from the inboxes of about 200 folks.
Within the electronic mail that The Instances reviewed, metadata exhibits that the unique electronic mail got here from firstname.lastname@example.org, an Estonian mail server hosted on ElkData.ee, one of many nation’s area internet hosting companies.
It stays unclear what number of voters in Florida, Alaska or different states acquired related or equivalent emails.
Every electronic mail begins by immediately addressing the voter together with his or her full title. It continues:
“We’re in possession of all of your data You might be at the moment registered as a Democrat and we all know this as a result of now we have gained entry into all the voting infrastructure. You’ll vote for Trump on Election Day or we are going to come after you. Change your occasion affiliation to Republican to tell us you acquired our message and can comply. We are going to know which candidate you voted for. I might take this significantly if I have been you.”
The e-mail then concludes with an deal with, probably the deal with hooked up to a voter’s registration.
Kevin R.B. Butler, a professor of pc science on the College of Florida, stated that whereas the emails appeared threatening, they weren’t extremely technical.
“The emails are clearly alarming by the content material of them and the seemingly focused nature of them, so I can perceive why folks could be very alarmed to get an electronic mail like this,” he stated. “However the emails themselves usually are not a very refined sort of operation.”
“Underneath Florida regulation, we’re pretty liberal about what’s accessible to the general public in relation to voter registration lists,” Dr. Butler added. “Your title, your deal with and your occasion affiliation — all of that’s recorded. So getting this data is just not significantly difficult.”
In most states, voter registration information is public data, accessible free or by way of a processing price. However that data has sometimes been weaponized by dangerous actors attempting to assert that they’ve obtained voting data by way of hacking.
The emails despatched to voters on Tuesday additionally underscored simply how public some data is relating to voter registration, together with electronic mail addresses. In Alachua County, which is residence to Gainesville, the e-mail addresses for tens of hundreds of voters have been publicly accessible.
However John Hultquist, the director of menace intelligence at FireEye, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity agency, stated that the widespread emails spanning a number of states, and the try and leverage the identification of the Proud Boys, have been a specific trigger for concern.
“The size of the marketing campaign raises a number of purple flags and we’re it intently,” Mr. Hultquist stated. “Overseas actors commonly impersonate political figures or organizations and this might have come from anybody. Whoever’s answerable for the emails could possibly be looking for to intimidate voters by leveraging the Proud Boys model, or these incidents could possibly be meant to stitch extra confusion and discord into the voting course of.”
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