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’ll come after you.” (There isn’t any manner for any group to know for whom particular person voters solid their ballots.)
One of many emails, obtained by The New York Occasions, got here from an tackle that instructed an affiliation with the Proud Boys, a far-right group. However metadata from the e-mail reveals that it didn’t come from the displayed e mail tackle — “[email protected]” — however as an alternative originated from an Estonian e mail server.
The e-mail obtained by The Occasions had been despatched to a voter in Gainesville, Fla., and was practically similar to dozens of others that had been reported within the metropolis. Voters in Brevard County, Fla., and Anchorage, Alaska, additionally reported receiving comparable emails.
Mayor Lauren Poe of Gainesville stated in an interview that the emails have been “a really brutish manner of attempting to intimidate individuals 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 manner individuals have been going to search out out who you vote for,” Mr. Poe stated. “So now I believe individuals are just a bit irritated by it, or assume it’s type of comical how ham-fisted it was — however don’t appear very panicked.”
Federal and native legislation 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 e 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 degree.”
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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 legislation 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 experiences round 10 a.m. on Tuesday that folks have been receiving the emails. He estimated that tons of of individuals within the county had acquired them.
The county contacted native legislation 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 individuals.
Within the e mail that The Occasions reviewed, metadata reveals that the unique e mail got here from [email protected], 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 comparable or similar emails.
Every e mail begins by immediately addressing the voter along 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 we now have gained entry into your complete voting infrastructure. You’ll vote for Trump on Election Day or we’ll 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’d take this significantly if I have been you.”
The e-mail then concludes with an tackle, probably the tackle connected 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 individuals can be very alarmed to get an e mail like this,” he stated. “However the emails themselves usually are not a very subtle kind of operation.”
“Below Florida legislation, we’re pretty liberal about what’s obtainable to the general public relating to voter registration lists,” Dr. Butler added. “Your title, your tackle and your occasion affiliation — all of that’s recorded. So getting this data isn’t significantly difficult.”
In most states, voter registration information is public data, obtainable free or by means of a processing payment. However that data has sometimes been weaponized by dangerous actors attempting to assert that they’ve obtained voting data through hacking.
The emails despatched to voters on Tuesday additionally underscored simply how public some data is concerning voter registration, together with e mail addresses. In Alachua County, which is residence to Gainesville, the e-mail addresses for tens of hundreds of voters have been publicly obtainable.
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 to leverage the identification of the Proud Boys, have been a specific trigger for concern.
“The size of the marketing campaign raises a whole lot of purple flags and we’re taking a look at it intently,” Mr. Hultquist stated. “International actors recurrently impersonate political figures or organizations and this might have come from anybody. Whoever’s answerable for the emails could possibly be in search of 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.”