Iran has been named as one of the two countries to be running a state backed hacking operation, in an attempt to access sensitive information from the campaign teams of US President Donald Trump and the Presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The other is China. Details of the hacking operation were uncovered by Google Threat Analysis Group (TAG). “Recently TAG saw China APT group targeting Biden campaign staff & Iran APT targeting Trump campaign staff with phishing,” tweeted Shane Huntley, director for Google’s Threat Analysis Group. He said that there was “no sign of compromise” and that both the affected users and federal law enforcement were notified. In a separate tweet, yesterday, Huntley explained APT31 was a Chinese backed hacking group and APT35 was an Iranian backed hacking group, both of which are said to be known to the threat analysis team for targeting government officials.
Iran: U.S. must increase defenses against Iranian information operations, report says | Sean Lyngaas/CyberScoop
As social media platforms battle Iranian bots and trolls, the U.S. government needs to step up its own fight against Tehran’s digital influence operations, a new study says. With the 2020 election approaching, Washington should do more to attribute Iranian and other foreign influence operations and warn the public about them, scholars at the Atlantic Council think tank argue. “Iran has invested significant resources and accumulated vast experience in the conduct of digital influence efforts,” the report says. It calls on the Department of Homeland Security to create an intergovernmental agency to alert U.S. officials and the public of foreign influence operations. U.S. intelligence agencies need to work closely with social media companies to pinpoint foreign influence operations, Atlantic Council scholars Emerson Brooking and Suzanne Kianpour’s advise. That collaboration is a work in progress.
Iran: Cyberattack on US Presidential Campaign Could Be a Sign of Things to Come | Jai Vijayan/Dark Reading
A recently detected Iranian cyberattack targeting a US presidential campaign may well be a harbinger of what’s in store for political parties and election systems in the run-up to next year’s general elections. Last Friday Microsoft disclosed it had observed significant threat activity over the past two months by Phosphorus, a threat group believed linked to the Iranian government. Phosphorus, which is also known as APT25 and Charming Kitten, made over 2,700 attempts to break into specific email accounts belonging to Microsoft customers. In many cases, Phosphorus used information about the targets — including phone numbers and secondary email addresses — to try and infiltrate their email accounts. In the end, Phosphorus attacked 241 targeted email accounts and eventually managed to compromise four of them. In a blog Friday, Microsoft corporate vice president Tom Burt described the targeted accounts as being associated with a US presidential campaign, current and former US government officials, journalists covering politics, and Iranian nationals residing outside the country. The four accounts that were actually breached, however, were not connected to the presidential campaign or to the government officials.
Iran: It’s not just the Russians anymore as Iranians and others turn up disinformation efforts ahead of 2020 vote | Craig Timberg and Tony Romm/ The Washington Post
A recent tweet from Alicia Hernan — whose Twitter account described her as a wife, mother and lover of peace — did not mince words about her feelings for President Trump: “That stupid moron doesn’t get that that by creating bad guys, spewing hate filled words and creating fear of ‘others’, his message is spreading to fanatics around the world. Or maybe he does.” That March 16 tweet, directed to a Hawaii congressman, was not the work of an American voter venting her frustration. The account, “@AliciaHernan3,” was what disinformation researchers call a “sock puppet” — a type of fictitious online persona used by Russians when they were seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election. But it was Iranians, not Russians, who created @AliciaHernan3, complete with a picture of a blonde woman with large, round-framed glasses and a turtleneck sweater. It was one of more than 7,000 phony accounts from Iran that Twitter has shut down this year alone. And Iran is far from the only nation that has, within its borders, substantial capacity to wage Russian-style influence operations in the United States ahead of next year’s election. That means American voters are likely to be targeted in the coming campaign season by more foreign disinformation than ever before, say those studying such operations.
Iran’s election watchdog certified President Hassan Rouhani’s reelection as fair on Tuesday, dismissing claims by the defeated hardline candidate who had asked for investigation into alleged widespread fraud. “The Guardian Council confirmed today in a letter the results of the 12th presidential election in Iran,” Salman Samani, the spokesman of the interior ministry, was quoted as saying by the state media. Rouhani easily secured reelection for a second term in the May 19 vote, winning more than 57 percent of the vote. His main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, received 38 percent.
Over 58 percent of eligible voters have cast their ballots in the four predominately Kurdish provinces in Iran, despite Kurdish opposition groups’ joint call to boycott the votes in the run up to the polls in April, preliminary statistics from the election committees show. Iran held simultaneous elections for the post of the president and legislative seats in city councils across the country on Friday. Kermanshah province, a mainly Kurdish region with large Persian speaking populations had over 75 percent turnout, well above national average of around 73 percent.
Iran: Hassan Rouhani wins Iranian election by a landslide following near-record turnout | The Washington Post
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was reelected to a second term by a landslide, the interior minister declared Saturday, presenting him a resounding endorsement of his plans to end Iran’s pariah status and rejoin the global economy. With 57 percent of the vote, Rouhani defeated his hard-line rival, Ebrahim Raisi, who had the backing of the ruling clergy and allied security forces. He also won a clear mandate to push through domestic reforms and pursue talks with the West, building on the nuclear deal he negotiated with world powers. That agreement, which Rouhani and his cabinet clinched during his first term, constrains Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for international sanctions relief.
Iranians will be able to learn more about their presidential candidates with a simple swipe of their phone. A California-based NGO has helped to create a Tinder-like app for the Iranian smartphone market to provide unfettered information about the candidates ahead of Friday’s national elections. Creators and supporters of the app say it will help Iranian voters make informed choices away from the regime’s propaganda machine that controls the flow of information in Iran.
Once again a major election is approaching in Iran – a presidential election at yet another crucial turning point in the history of the beleaguered theocracy ruling over a restless and ambitious nation, trying by hook or by crook to curtail a rich and powerful political culture far beyond its limited imagination. Once again, nagging questions are paramount among Iranians in and out of their homeland: Are such elections an exercise in futility? Will they make any difference? Do they have any tangible result in the life of the nation?
Iran’s highest leader said on Wednesday that any disrupters of national elections, which are less than two weeks away, would receive a “slap in the face,” underscoring the political tensions lurking behind the vote. The warning came in a widely publicized speech by the leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to graduating cadets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the powerful paramilitary force, in which he emphasized that security was the most important issue in the May 19 election, when Iranians will choose a new president and city and village councils. Ever since unprecedented antigovernment protests after the disputed 2009 presidential vote, elections have become delicate moments in Iran.
Electronic voting machines are planned to be installed in 145 cities tomorrow as Iran prepares to hold the 5th City and Village Councils elections concurrent with the upcoming presidential vote, an official said on Monday. Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency, Qassem Mirzaee Nekou, an ICT official at the central board responsible for monitoring the 5th City and Village Councils elections said all the necessary measures have been taken to provide the required facilities, including hardware and software, to hold the polls electronically.
Iranian conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi met with visiting Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov — an encounter that Raisi probably did not expect would end up causing problems ahead of the May 19 presidential elections. The hard-line Tasnim News Agency, which is seen as backing Raisi and reported the meeting, described Minnikhanov as an envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, seemingly to highlight Raisi’s stature. During the meeting, Minnikhanov reportedly told Raisi, “We hope that the relationship between Iran and Tatarstan will be [further] developed.” He added, “Vladimir Putin gives special importance to the spread of religion, including Islam, as he has formed a strategic group, which I head, for developing relations with Islam [the Islamic world].”
Spokesmen for Iran’s Guardian Council ruled out the possibility that the presidential election, slated for May 19, will be held with electronic voting machines in the whole polling stations, citing security issues. In an interview with the Tasnim News Agency on Friday, Abbasali Kadkhodaei said the upcoming presidential election will definitely not be held fully electronically. An “all-electronic” election requires the Interior Ministry to make arrangements to ensure the security, quality and health of the polls, he noted, adding that given the short time remaining until the polls, the May 19 presidential election will not be held fully electronically.
Domestically-designed machines built to replace ballot boxes in the upcoming city council elections have been successfully tested, removing doubts over the implementation of electronic voting in Iranian elections. Abolfazl Aboutorabi, a member of Majlis Councils and Internal Affairs Commission, made the announcement in a talk with ICANA on Saturday. The elections will be held on May 19, concurrent with the presidential polls. A special parliamentary board, comprising three members of Majlis Councils and Internal Affairs Commission and two from Majlis Article 90 Commission, is tasked with vetting candidates and overseeing the city council elections.
Alireza Barati, deputy Interior Minister for e-governance and IT, has said the interior ministry is ready to hold electronic voting in the forthcoming presidential election if the Guardian Council gives the go-head. “Electronic voting offers advantages such as speed, accuracy and precision and we are ready to use it in the upcoming presidential election provided that the Guardian Council approves it,” ISNA quoted Barati as saying on Monday. There is an economic dimension to electronic voting as it remove the need to print ballots and count votes, the official added.
Iran’s new parliament will have more women than clerics when its members are sworn in this month, a first in the Islamic republic and a sign of the country’s evolving politics. Official results Saturday showed that reformist and moderate politicians allied with President Hassan Rouhani won a big victory in second round parliamentary elections. The outcome saw them outnumber their conservative rivals — many hardliners lost seats — for the first time since 2004 and capped a remarkable comeback for reformists after years of isolation.
Iranian moderates and reformists who support last year’s landmark nuclear deal have won the largest number of seats in parliament following runoff elections, marking a shift away from hard-liners and boosting moderate President Hassan Rouhani as he looks to secure a second term in office. The results released Saturday on state television failed to give the moderate-reformist camp an outright majority in the 290-seat chamber, however. They will now likely try to attract support from dozens of independent lawmakers whose political leanings vary depending on the issue at hand. There were 68 seats being contested in runoff elections held Friday in 55 constituencies around the country. Residents in the capital, Tehran, did not take part in the second-round balloting because moderates won all 30 seats there outright in first-round voting in February.
Nearly a quarter of Iran’s parliamentary seats are at stake Friday in an election in which reformists want to consolidate their recent comeback and minimise the clout of hardline lawmakers. The second round run-offs were triggered because no candidate in 68 constituencies managed to win 25 percent of votes cast in the initial nationwide ballot on February 26. Reformists who backed the country’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani made big gains in the first round following Iran’s implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers, which lifted sanctions blamed for long hobbling the economy. Conservative MPs, including vehement opponents of the West who openly criticised the landmark agreement that reined in Iran’s atomic programme, lost dozens of seats.
With reformist-backed candidates securing a sweeping victory in Tehran, and moderates leading in provinces, a record number of women are set to enter the next Iranian parliament. Estimates based on the latest results show that as many as 20 women are likely to enter the 290-seat legislature known as the Majlis, the most ever. The previous record was set nearly 20 years ago during the fifth parliament after the 1979 revolution, when 14 women held seats. There are nine women in the current Iranian parliament. Eight of the women elected this time were on a reformist-backed list of 30 candidates standing in the Tehran constituency known as “the list of hope”. Among them is Parvaneh Salahshori, a 51-year-old sociologist and university professor originally from Masjed Soleyman, in the south of Iran. Her husband, Barat Ghobadian, also a university professor, was disqualified from running. As the results were being counted, an interview surfaced online showing Salahshori speaking out about discrimination against women in Iran, pleasing many women’s rights advocates. She also said women should be able to choose whether or not to wear the hijab, a taboo subject in the Islamic Republic.
Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday’s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces. A coalition of candidates supported by the reformists, dubbed “the list of hope”, is likely to take all of the capital’s 30 parliamentary seats, according to the latest tally released by the interior ministry, in surprising results seen as a strong vote of confidence in Rouhani’s moderate agenda. Mohammad Reza Aref, a committed reformist who has a degree from Stanford University in the US, is at the top of the list. Preliminary results for the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for appointing the next supreme leader, showed Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a key Rouhani ally, leading the race. Elections to the assembly are usually a lacklustre event but have attracted huge attention this time because of the age of the current leader, 76-year-old Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khamenei and Rafsanjani, a prominent pragmatist who was not allowed to run for president in 2013, have been at odds in recent years.
Iran: Early Results Show Reformists and Moderates Drawing Votes in Iran Elections | The New York Times
Preliminary results released Saturday in Iran indicated that reformist and moderate candidates were set to expand their influence after two important elections, state news media quoted the Interior Ministry as saying. More than 30 million Iranians voted Friday in the two elections, one for a new Parliament and the other for an influential clerical council. The elections were the first since the completion of an international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program that included the lifting of economic sanctions against the country, a deal supported by the reformist camp and opposed by hard-liners. Voter turnout for the two contests exceeded 60 percent, according to the Interior Ministry. The reformist and moderate list of candidates for the 290-member Parliament appeared to be headed for victory in the Tehran area, according to preliminary results announced by election officials and reported by the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran News Network. Representatives from Tehran, the capital, control 30 seats in Parliament and generally determine the political direction of the body.
Iranians headed to the polls Friday in national elections that conservatives are once again expected to dominate parliament and other government bodies, constraining the ability of Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s pragmatist president, to push through reforms. The election once had the potential to be pivotal until almost every would-be candidate advocating reform was barred from running. But with only a limited number of moderates and reformers on the ballot, analysts say the election is unlikely to foreshadow a history-making moment of change in Iran. The election — the first since a nuclear deal lifted most of the international sanctions that had hobbled economic growth — is being closely watched nevertheless. “Our enemies have their covetous eyes trained on Iran,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, according to state TV. “People are advised to vote with discretion and foresight and disappoint the enemies.”
Supporters of a coalition of reformists and backers of President Hassan Rouhani held their first joint rally in Tehran as thousands of Iranian candidates on Thursday launched their election campaigns ahead of the country’s Feb. 26 parliamentary elections. Hundreds of demonstrators — men and women, young and old — gathered in a public hall in central…
Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said Wednesday he had lost an appeal against his exclusion from elections for the powerful Assembly of Experts. “Based on news we have received, Sayyad Hassan Khomeini’s qualification for candidacy for the Assembly of Experts has once again not been approved by the Guardian Council,” he wrote on instant messaging service Telegram. The Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated committee that decides who can run for public office, has barred hundreds of candidates from standing for the assembly on February 26, the same day as parliamentary polls.
Iran’s election overseers have cleared only one-fifth of the potential candidates seeking a spot on the panel with powers to select the country’s next supreme leader, an official said Tuesday. The rejections appear to be another stand by hard-liners seeking to hold back more moderate-leaning groups after some high-profile strides under President Hassan Rouhani, including a nuclear deal with world powers that lifted international sanctions. Such widespread vetting of candidates is a fixture of Iranian politics that allows the culling of those perceived as potential threats to the ruling system and its protectors, led by the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iran has called off plans to hold the two upcoming elections using electronic voting machines, Spokesman for Iran’s Guardian Council (GC) Nejatollah Ebrahimian announced. Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency on Wednesday, Ebrahimian pointed to a meeting of the GC earlier in the day and said the issue of using electronic ballot boxes in the upcoming elections was raised in the session and the majority of the GC members voiced their opposition to the plan.
Iran’s Interior Ministry on Saturday unveiled an electronic voting machine which, if authorized by the country’s Guardian Council, will come on stream in nine major cities for upcoming elections in February 2016. The Interior Ministry has plans to employ the electronic machines as ballot boxes in 9 big cities for the parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections, both due to be held on February 26, 2016.
Iranian Minister of Interior Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli says his ministry would take necessary measures to hold the upcoming parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections electronically upon an approval by the country’s Guardian Council of the Constitution. Rahmani Fazli made the remarks on Tuesday, adding that if not held electronically, the voting would take place in transparent ballot boxes through which the voting ballots are visible but not readable.
President Hassan Rouhani unofficially kicked off next February’s parliamentary elections before a gathering of provincial governors on 26 May. “No political or sectarian belief should be discounted, for they are based in religion, science, and personal beliefs, and of course elections without competition are impossible,” Rouhani said. “We have different ideas in our society, and all are free to express their ideas. This is why we have various parties and persuasions.” Rouhani’s comments suggest he hopes to prepare the way for increased reformist participation in the majles (parliament). The president suggested he would resist attempts by far-right, fundamentalist elements to improperly leverage money, influence, or advertising in order to influence voters. “Hopefully no one will be told that so-and-so from the government, the Revolutionary Guards, the military, the media, the regional or local government, or the mosques, supports so-and-so as a candidate for the majles,” he said. “Such talk constitutes poison for otherwise healthy elections. All officials and people in positions of power are duty bound to serve the interests of the nation as a whole and not those of [particular] political parties or individuals.”
Friday’s election in Iran was surprising on multiple fronts. Perceived reformer Hassan Rouhani won a majority of the vote in the first round, clinching the presidency to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who has held that position since 2005. Iranians took to the streets in celebration during the weekend to recognize not only Rouhani’s unlikely victory with 50.7 percent of the vote, but also the process itself which, unlike 2009, did not appear to be rigged by the country’s ruling elites. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei likely felt pressure to give way to the majority rule due to the country’s economy, crippled by international sanctions, and the series of uprisings throughout the region. Protests that began in the Arab Spring in late 2010 continue to roil in countries such as neighboring Syria and Turkey.