Hamas Hacker’s Seduction Plot Foiled

Hamas Honeytrap, Coronavirus Infections and more in this week’s Israel News Recap.


Israel NewsFeb 19, 2020

Israel NewsFeb 19, 2020


Social media and hacking concept (Image: © Bigstock)

By

A Hamas honeytrap targeting IDF soldiers was dismantled, COVID-19 infects three Israelis trapped on a cruise ship in Japan, the UNHRC targets Israeli business on “blacklist” and a Gaza truce falters, again.

IDF Foils Hamas Seduction Plot

The IDF foiled a plot by Hamas hackers to seduce Israeli army personnel with fake, virus-laden profiles of attractive women on social media to gather data about military operations.

Before being dismantled by the Israeli military’s cyber security, the Hamas hackers managed to compromise hundreds of Israeli phones, according to the Jerusalem Post. The tactic, called a honeytrap, is a simple one. Hamas operatives create fake profiles on social media sites. The profile picture is an attractive young woman with simple but believable biographical details. After connecting with targets, the hackers engaged them in conversation even going so far as to send voice messages to make the profiles more believable.

After establishing a level of rapport, the Hamas operatives would send a link to download another social network application, but just like the person was fake. After downloading it, the virus-laced application would send an error message, appear to delete itself all while accessing features on the phone such as the user’s location, camera, microphone and allow the operative to take full control of the phone.

The IDF said they were aware of the scheme for months but waited to act till they had better technology to dismantle the malware. They also said that no major breaches occurred from this operation, and that soldiers who were impacted will have the virus removed from their devices.

This isn’t the first time Hamas has conducted such operations. In fact, it’s the third Hamas honeytrap Israel has shut down since 2017. In March of 2018, Operation Heartbreaker dismantled a network of Hamas accounts targeting Israeli soldiers. But this time, the attack was more sophisticated.

The hackers duplicated accounts across social media platforms, edited the images to make the source files more difficult to identify and even identified most of the profiles as recent immigrants to Israel with hearing or vision problems to account for their less-than fluent Hebrew. This likely won’t be the last Hamas attempt to breach Israeli information security by playing on social vulnerabilities, but it’s nothing new for Israel.

One of the first recorded instances of a honeytrap being deployed against Israelis occurred when “Israel lived in Shittim, and the people began to commit sexual immorality with the daughters of Moab. These women invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods; then the people ate and bowed down to their gods. When Israel joined themselves to Baal Peor, the anger of the Lord flared up against Israel.”

Coronavirus Infects Three Israelis on Cruise Ship

The COVID-19 virus, a variety of the Coronavirus, has infected three Israeli citizens stuck on the quarantined ‘Diamond Princess’ cruise ship off the coast of Japan.

The three patients, a couple and third woman, are just a few of the hundreds of travelers who have been stuck on board the quarantined cruise ship for weeks as the viral COVID-19 sweeps through South East Asia and reaches to the rest of the world. The Israelis join 355 others from the ship that have also contracted the virus adding to the total 71,331 global infected. Official numbers report 1,175 deaths and 11,087 recoveries.

Japanese health officials transported the Israelis to a hospital and have reported them as stable with mild symptoms. As other countries are considering evacuation and quarantine options for their citizens, Israel is wasting no time in managing any crisis on their turf.

Jpost reports that a doctor from Jerusalem’s Hadassah Medical Center, is leaving for Japan on Monday morning to oversee the treatment of the infected Israelis and an Saturday the Israeli Health Ministry director-general went to Japan to evaluate the situation on the ground.

The weighty decision facing Israeli officials now is whether to bring their citizens home and risk infecting their country, or to keep them in Japan.

UNHRC Publishes Israel Business “Blacklist”

The United Nations Human Rights Council published a list of 112 companies it says are conducting business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank that are considered illegal by the UN.

The publication of the list was praised by Israel’s critics and was widely scorned by Israel and it’s supporters. The justification of the publication by the UNHRC, which regularly and disproportionately targets Israel for alleged human rights abuses, was that the companies’ activities “raised particular human rights concerns.”

“Without these investments, wineries, factories, corporate supply and purchase agreements, banking operations and support services, many of the settlements would not be financially and operationally sustainable,” said Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk, the appointed UNHRC monitor of Israeli and Palestinian affairs.

Israel is the only country against which such a list has been complied of businesses suspected by breaking international law. The Jerusalem Post reports that for three years, Israel and the U.S. tried to suppress the publication of the “blacklist” over fears it would fuel the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement - which is exactly what appears to now be the case. Ninety-four of the 112 businesses are based in Israel and range from construction, wineries and banks to international firms, according to the Times of Israel.

In response, Israel’s Foreign Ministry cut off ties with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, which is responsible of compilation of the list, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a simple message.

"Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted.”

Gaza Truce Falters

The oft repeated headline has repeated itself again. After tepid negotiations with Hamas and Israel a brief lull in the violence along the Gaza border was achieved only to be skewered with rocket fire and retaliatory strikes and sanctions days later.

Two rockets launched from the Gaza Strip pierced the calm last weekend and were met by airstrikes from Israeli jets and helicopters. Though no casualties were reported on either side, it marks yet another failure to negotiate any kind of lasting cease fire agreement between Israel and the terrorist factions in the Gaza Strip. In the days prior to this strike, multiple sources reported that Hamas had agreed to stop attacks, along with incendiary balloons and in return Israel would expand the fishing zone and ease restrictions on imports, according to the Times of Israel.

Now, the IDF announced it revoked of some 500 permits allowing businessmen to leave Gaza, the fishing zone increase and an agreement to allow cement into the Strip. The failure to deescalate is not the first failure to resolve the Gaza crisis and likely won’t be the last. Meanwhile, the communities near the Gaza border, those most susceptible to rockets, mortars and explosive balloons, are fed up.

The mayors of towns near the border penned a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imploring him to do more to fight the terrorism flowing from Gaza.

“For the last two years, we have been in a war that can no longer be ignored,” the mayors said in a statement. “The reality in which our residents live is not moral and cannot continue.”

Join the Conversation: