Report: US undertook cyber operation against Iran over election meddling

Officials: US Cyber Command and National Security Agency have acted to ensure that foreign actors do not interfere in the 2020 election.

Elad Benari ,

Cyber warfare
Cyber warfare

US Cyber Command and the National Security Agency have taken recent actions to ensure that foreign actors do not interfere in the 2020 election, including an operation in the past two weeks against Iran, US officials said Tuesday, according to The Washington Post.

The move against Iranian hackers working for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps came shortly after they launched an operation two weeks ago posing as a far-right group to send threatening emails to American voters and also posted a video aimed at driving down confidence in the voting process, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gen. Paul Nakasone, who leads both the NSA and the military’s cyber command, did not address any specific operation Tuesday but said in an interview with reporters that he was “very confident in actions” taken against adversaries “over the past several weeks and the past several months to make sure that they’re not going to interfere in our elections.”

Nakasone said the NSA had been watching the Iranians for a while and was not caught off guard by their gambit.

“We had a very, very good bead on what a number of actors were trying to do,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “We provided early warning and followed [them very closely]. We weren’t surprised by their actions.”

Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said at a press conference last month that Iran has been sending “spoof emails designed to intimidate voters, incite unrest and damage President” Donald Trump.

Iran has denied trying to interfere in the US presidential election. On Monday, Iran's foreign ministry said it will focus on the "actions" of the new US administration rather than who wins the election.

Nakasone stressed in Tuesday’s call with reporters that the agencies’ work began after the 2018 midterms and will continue for weeks after Election Day, until the votes are certified. “This is just the start. We’ll be ready for the days to come.”

Nakasone noted that the level of foreign targeting of the US election was lower than that of two years ago. “I just don’t see the levels that we had seen” in 2018, he said. There also are more foreign actors with the capability and intent to influence U.S. elections, “so we have broadened our partnerships and our operations.”