By the CNN Wire Staff • Updated 4th May 2013
The FBI and Department of Justice announced Friday charges against three individuals for interfering with the voting process in Arizona, Florida and Georgia, the latest effort in what’s been a string of international cyberattacks linked to Iran.
The FBI identified the three as “Iranian operatives” based on evidence that they were working in Iran when they were arrested in late 2010.
They are being charged in a 26-count indictment that alleges they engaged in a sophisticated attack on US election officials and election systems. The three are accused of using emails with links to malware to spread the botnet in those three states, the FBI said.
The malicious software is used to capture login credentials and take control of the computers of election workers, as well as by those processing election ballots, prosecutors say.
“The defendants used the malware that they transmitted to commit a wide variety of computer crimes. This malware was not simply software that the defendants downloaded and modified,” according to a statement by the FBI’s press office.
“It was uniquely tailored to the targeted election officials and systems in Georgia, Arizona, and Florida. It was developed and deployed by the defendants, who, using their own IP addresses, identified and monitored each computer being used to distribute the malware, shut down the Internet connection of unsuspecting victims, and extracted passwords and other sensitive information from the infected computers. These defendants have sought to undermine the electoral process on a large scale. They have targeted not only election officials and the computer networks they control, but they have targeted actual voters. They compromised personal computers and mobile devices in order to make it more difficult for election officials and others to cast their votes.”
They have sought to undermine the electoral process on a large scale. They have targeted not only election officials and the computer networks they control, but they have targeted actual voters. – FBI
The hacking charges followed a similar case involving the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps hackers last year. Iranian hackers were accused of launching a malicious software program dubbed “Stuxnet” in 2010 that had a major impact on the global oil and nuclear markets.
Stuxnet is a custom-developed computer virus on industrial equipment designed to disrupt the operation of nuclear centrifuges. Iran denies any involvement in the cyber attack.
The Department of Justice announced “Stuxnet” charges against five current and former Iranian military officials in July 2011. The Iranians are charged with attempting to damage computer systems by “cyber espionage” in the United States and internationally.