- February 29, 2020 at 13:05 #6628
When one considers the conflict between Israel and Hamas, a number of images will perhaps come to mind: bodies of Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers, ruined buildings, and militants wearing balaclavas brandishing rocket-propelled grenade launchers and Kalashnikov rifles.
Yet away from the snipers, roadside bombs and artillery fire, the conflict has entered new territory in the cyber realm, with both sides engaging in online operations of a rather different nature to the conventional attacks of recent decades.
In mid-February, the Israeli Defense Force admitted that a number of its soldiers had – quite literally – fallen for Hamas operatives posing as women on fake social media accounts. The Hamas agents were able to persuade some of the IDF troops to download an app that allowed the Palestinian fundamentalist militant organization to access the soldiers’ headsets, as well as information on their smartphones. However, an IDF spokesperson claimed that no significant military intelligence had been compromised.
The social media presence of the Hamas operatives was apparently quite sophisticated, with the girls’ Facebook accounts convincingly developed and their posts filled with Hebrew slang. When some of the soldiers spoke to their would-be lovers on the phone, they blamed their poor command of the Hebrew language on the fact that they were apparently new immigrants to Israel, or that they had medical speech difficulties.
This operation is something of a repeat of a similar incident in 2017, when Israeli soldiers were contacted by strangers who sent revealing pictures while remaining vague about their own personal details. The alarm was raised when the lewd strangers began to ask about the soldiers’ military activities, and when a female Israeli soldier recognized pictures and content from her own social media pages on some of the fake accounts.
Hamas has denied its involvement in the incidents, claiming that possession of any ‘immoral’ photos of women is against its Islamic values. Israel, meanwhile, has been accused of doctoring photos of known Hamas members to put them in unflattering or mocking lights. A Hamas spokesman, Abdul Latif al-Qanoo, admitted that the organization is in ‘a multi-front battle’ with the Israeli authorities.
Although Hamas failed to inflict any damage on Israel or steal any valuable military intelligence, its moderate success in gaining the trust of IDF troops on social media sets a worrying enough precedent. After all, military secrets do not have to be anything as dramatic as nuclear codes, or secret battle plans, or the names and details of special operations personnel. Something as simple as knowing how often a security patrol passes perimeter fences or how often gate guards change their watch rotations can be valuable pieces of information for any outside forces planning terrorist activity. This sort of low-key intelligence is known to the most humble private of any army and would be easy to glean from a few minutes of careful conversation. There is also the possibility that Hamas may now have started a trend – Islamic State sympathizers in Europe (the perpetrators of every Islamist terrorist attack in recent years) could well attempt to replicate Hamas’ efforts with American soldiers stationed on the continent, or their NATO partners.
After Israel’s experience, it should now be abundantly clear that cyber security is no longer a matter for the upper echelons of military command, but for every member of any nation’s armed forces, as well as any and all independent contractors with whom they work.March 2, 2020 at 11:35 #6629
Interesting article! Definitely reinforces the fact that cyber security is no longer a matter for the upper ranks of military command, but for every member of any nation’s armed forces, as well as any and all independent contractors with whom they work.
Even when operations, like the one explored in this article, target members of a nation’s armed forces; the ramifications extend further than defense personnel and contractors. The reach of such a spear phishing operation will have undoubtedly gathered data not only of IDF staff, but also of relatives & friends.
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