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Bursting Israeli cybersecurity bubble, Hamas comes close to hacking phones of regime soldiers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, an Israeli soldier is seen looking at his phone while sitting on a battle tank.

Puncturing the bubble of Israel's cyber prowess, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas again came dangerously close to hacking the smartphones of the Israeli military personnel, including senior officers, through fake social media accounts.

In a statement published on its website on Monday, the Israeli military said the Gaza-based group made efforts to find ways to gather information on its forces, and the efforts included attempts to install spyware on their cellular phones and to initiate chats with regime troops on various subjects, using fake profiles.

The statement added that the hackers -- provided the contact was established -- would attempt to convince the soldiers to download a virus to their devices, disguised as an application featuring puzzles, in order to control their phones.

“These profiles got in touch with service personnel in order to create connections that would allow them to take the next step and lure them into downloading the game application, which turned out to be a malicious attack tool,” an unnamed officer in the intelligence unit of the Israeli military was quoted as saying.

The Israeli military statement said that joint operations by several Israeli units had foiled the attempted hacking, claiming that no sensitive security information had been transmitted.

While the regime was lucky this time, it has yet again punctured the bubble of its claimed superiority in cyber technology and cyber warfare. 

Back in February, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported that Hamas had hacked smartphones of hundreds of Israeli military forces over several months.

The report said the Palestinian resistance movement had gained control over their phones via a link, which automatically downloaded an app to their devices.

This would enable the group to acquire the precise location of the phones and record audio using their microphones.

In July last year, dozens of Israeli military troopers received messages via the WhatsApp text messaging service, advising them to stop serving the Tel Aviv regime or get killed in action.

The Palestinian Safa news agency, citing a report published by Israel’s Channel 20, reported at the time that Hebrew-language messages from an unknown source had reached soldiers from several combat brigades in the Israeli army, and they were strongly believed to have been sent by Hamas.

“We can reach you and launch missiles at the area where you live in the next battle. The [Israeli] army has abandoned you, so why should you die? You have your whole life ahead of you. Do not seek adventurism, or else death is your destiny,” the messages read.

The messages then recounted the fate of Israeli soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were captured by Palestinian resistance fighters after entering the Gaza Strip back in August 2014.

“Remember the fate of Shaul, Hadar and others. If you don’t take care of yourself, who will do so then?! To get a lot of money and assure your and your family’s safety, contact us. Do not worry! We maintain a high level of confidentiality,” they also read.

The purported attack targeting Israeli soldiers' phones comes as Israel itself has been under tremendous pressure to halt the export of spyware since last July after a group of international rights and media organizations revealed that the Pegasus program produced by controversial spyware company NSO Group was used to hack the phones of journalists, politicians, and human rights activists in several countries.

NSO has since faced lawsuits and criticism from major technology companies across the world which accuse it of putting their customers at risk of hacking.

Israeli regime officials have also been pushing the US government to remove the NSO from the Department of Commerce blacklist, according to reports, months after the US Department of Commerce said the Israeli spyware company’s activities clashed with the US foreign policy and national security interests.


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