Hamas accused of 'catfishing' Israeli soldiers with fake woman profile hack

Hamas accused of 'catfishing' Israeli soldiers with fake woman profile hack
Israel has claimed that Hamas used pictures of attractive women to trick its soldiers into downloading malware, following air strikes in central Gaza
4 min read
17 February, 2020
Israel accused Hamas of catfishing [Getty]
Israel's military accused Hamas of launching a malware attack that sought to gain access to soldiers' mobile phones by using seductive pictures of young women, known as "catfishing".

The phones of a few dozen soldiers were affected, but the military "does not assess that there has been a substantial breach of information", said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman.

Conricus said this was the third attempted malware attack by Hamas in less than four years, but that the latest effort indicated the group, which controls the Gaza Strip, had improved their capacity to wage cyber-warfare.

"What we are talking about today is more advanced," he said. "They are upping their game."

According to Conricus, the attacks began with messages that purported to be from young, "attractive-looking" women.

The texts were delivered through Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram as well as the messaging application Telegram, which Israel said Hamas had not used previously.

IDF posted a photo of an alleged 'catfish' on its Twitter account [Twitter]

To avoid engaging in voice calls with soldiers, the messengers posing as young women claimed to be hard of hearing or new immigrants with poor Hebrew, Conricus said. 

Read More: Stuck in limbo: Israel deprives thousands of Palestinians ID cards

The Israelis added that the women's photos had been altered to make reverse-image searches fruitless, and used fake names like "Yael Azoulay" and "Noa Danon".

Once contact was made, subsequent messages encouraged soldiers to click on a link to download an application that would allow for an easier exchange of photos.

These apps, which the military identified as Catch&See, ZatuApp and GrixyApp, sought to infect the soldiers phones with malware that would give Hamas total access to the device.

The army said the attack began several months ago and that Israel took "defensive activity" in recent days but did not rule out further retaliation.

"Hostile actions by Hamas in the virtual world bear repercussion in the real world," Conricus said.

Investigators discovered the profiles were forged after recognising a fake identity, which had previously been found in another cyberattack.

Exchanging fire

Meanwhile on Friday, Hamas accused Israel of hacking one of its groups on the messaging app Telegram and posting doctored photos of Hamas intelligence officers in embarrassing poses, The New York Times reports.

One of the photos, which appeared to be crudely doctored, shows someone it alleges is a Hamas official whose alleged job is to "torture the innocent", holding a knife and standing in front of a half-naked, blindfolded man tied to a chair.

Relations with the Arab world is strained

Another photo, also heavily doctored shows a man who, the caption says, is employed as a hacker for Hamas but actually uses cybertechnology to "violate women's privacy and honour on the pretext of maintaining public safety".

Hamas and Israel have fought no less than three wars in the past twelve years, but the Islamist group had, until recently, shaped an informal truce with Israel, under which the Jewish state eased its crippling blockade of strip.

Exchanges between the two sides have escalated since last month after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Middle East peace plan, angrily rejected by the Palestinians as a capitulation to Israeli demands.

Trump's so-called 'Deal of the Century' offers Palestinians limited sovereignty over disparate blotches of territory and a capital on the outer edges of Jerusalem, while granting Israel the go-ahead to annex large parts of the West Bank.

On Saturday night, Israeli military helicopters shelled an alleged military post used by Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the group who control the Gaza strip, a total of six times, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language sister site.

The air raid, which targeted a central region of the densely populated coastal enclave, set the post ablaze but resulted in no casualties.

"Fighter planes and helicopters have targeted positions of the terrorist organisation Hamas in central Gaza strip," the Israeli military said in statement, AFP report.

Earlier, military sources reported that two rockets had been fired into the Gaza envelope, the area of Israel which surrounds the strip.

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