WASHINGTON — Iran and Russia have both obtained American voter registration data, and Tehran used it to send threatening, faked emails to voters that were aimed at influencing the presidential election, top national security officials announced on Wednesday evening.
There was no indication that any election result tallies were changed or that information about who is registered to vote was altered, both of which would threaten to alter actual votes, said John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, in an appearance at the bureau’s headquarters.
And it was not clear that either nation hacked into voter registration systems. Some voter information, including party registration, is public, and voters’ names may have been merged with other identifying material like email addresses that is available in other databases, according to intelligence officials, including some sold by criminal hacking networks on the “dark web.”
Still, the announcement that a foreign adversary, Iran, had tried to influence the election by sending intimidating emails was a stark warning. Some of the spoofed emails, sent to Democratic voters, purported to be from pro-Trump far-right groups, including the Proud Boys.
It was not clear what Iran’s intentions were. Mr. Ratcliffe said the effort was aimed at hurting President Trump, and intelligence officials have said Iran opposes the president’s re-election. But if the emails had the effect of intimidating Democrats, they could also have hurt Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic nominee.
“This data can be used by foreign actors to attempt to communicate false information to registered voters that they hope will cause confusion, sow chaos and undermine your confidence in American democracy,” Mr. Ratcliffe said.
He also said Iran was circulating a video that was pushing disinformation about fraudulent ballots being cast overseas.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.