How accessible is voter information?

2020 Election

NEW YORK (NewsNation Now) —  The Department of Homeland Security issued an advisory Thursday about the latest high-tech attempt to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

A pair of alerts posted by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warns of ongoing Iranian and Russian hacking efforts, including an email voter intimidation campaign believed backed by Iran.

Inboxes across several states, including Florida, Alaska, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, have been getting messages falsely attempting to link President Donald Trump’s campaign to the far-right Proud Boys group. The subject line says, “Vote For Trump Or Else!”

The message reads, in part, “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.”

“It included my full name,” an Oklahoma recipient told NewsNation. “And then it was just bodily threats.”

While the messages are giving some voters the jitters, experts say they absolutely should not.

In fact, Andrew Grotto, a cybersecurity expert at Stanford University, barely gives this election meddling attempt a passing grade.

“Overall, from a technical standpoint, I would rate this spoofed ‘Proud Boys’ operation kind of medium to low,” he said, pointing out that the information needed to carry out something like this is easily accessible to virtually anyone online.

“It’s very easy to come by, and in many states this information can be acquired through the internet. It’s publicly available,” Grotto said. “In other cases, an actor can just pay one of a gazillion political consulting firms who collect this data. They can just purchase it.”

The endgame is very clear: to exploit known divisions by falsely linking the threat to a known group, hoping to create election turmoil and maybe even scaring some voters away from the polls.

We saw a low-tech example of the same idea this week in Ohio. Trump voters in the Cleveland suburbs have been getting threatening letters in the mail.

“I’m standing my ground,” one told NewsNation affiliate WJW. “I’m leaving my signs up. That’s the beauty of this country. It’s free speech.”

Experts say voters should also stand their ground when it comes to those threatening emails.

While it’s easy enough for the perpetrators to get your contact information and party affiliation online, there’s an important detail they can’t obtain: how you voted.

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