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US sanctions Iranian nationals, firm for influencing presidential elections

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US sanctions Iranian nationals, firm for influencing presidential elections
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Washington: The United States sanctioned six Iranian nationals and an Iranian cyber-firm for attempting to influence last year's US presidential elections, Al Jazeera reported. The US Treasury Department said in a statement on Thursday that state-sponsored Iranian cyber actors executed an online operation to intimidate and influence American voters between August and September 2020.

They intended to undermine voter confidence and sow discord, the department said.

The department accused the sanctioned individual and company of spreading disinformation and sending threatening emails. A fraudulent video was also sent, it said, to undermine voters' faith in the election by implying that individuals could cast fraudulent ballots.

The sanctions block every asset the individuals and companies own in the US while barring Americans from doing business with them.

The US had charged two of the individuals it had sanctioned with obtaining confidential US voting information and conspiring with others to sow disinformation to undermine confidence in the election's integrity.

According to the indictment against the individuals, they also sent Facebook messages, purporting to be a rightwing group, to Republican members of Congress and then-President Trump's campaign members.

They were alleged to have tried to access voter registration data and managed to download information about 1 lakh of registered voters.

The sanction move came a day after American, British and Australian officials warned that hackers linked to the Iran government targeted many inside the US and were deploying ransomware. In recent months, Iran has exploited computer vulnerabilities exposed by hackers and targeted entities like transportation, healthcare and public health, they said.

The US Treasury Department further noted that their move reiterates the US government's commitment to hold state-sponsored actors accountable to attempts to undermine public confidence in the electoral process and institutions of the state.

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