App meltdown: Netanyahu’s Likud party leaks data of over 6 million Israeli voters

App meltdown: Netanyahu’s Likud party leaks data of over 6 million Israeli voters
An app the Israeli prime minister had encouraged voters to download had a security glitch that allowed easy access to the private information of everyone voting in the elections.
3 min read
10 February, 2020
The election will take place in March [Getty]
Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud party are in hot water after an election App the prime minister had encouraged people to download had a security vulnerability that allowed the downloading of personal details of over six million people on the electoral register.

The country’s Privacy Protection Authority said it was looking into what it called a “grave” security lapse by the maker of the Elector app and raised concerns over identity theft and foreign interference in the upcoming election.

Likud uploaded the full register of Israeli voters to the Elector app, which is used by the party to manage election day on 2 March.

The leaked information includes full names, identity card numbers and gender of 6,453,254 citizens, as well as the phone numbers and other personal details of some of them, according to a tip provided to Haaretz.

Israeli political parties receive information about voters prior to the elections providing they keep the details private, not give the information to a third party and permanently delete the information after the elections are completed.

Such a privacy breach hasn’t happened since 2006, when an interior ministry employee stole the registry and distributed it illegally.

Feed-b is the company that developed the Elector app and told the publication that the vulnerability was a “one-off incident that was dealt with” and that it has since beefed up security in an effort to protect the information.

The leak was easily detected and required no hacking skills to access, after a tipoff found that rightclicking the app’s home page and choosing “view source” brought up the source code, which revealed usernames and passwords of system administrators.

The message had been sent to Cybercyber, a Hebrew podcast.

Read More: Bibi, Burhan, best friends? How Sudan generals' rapprochement with Israel exposes weakness of democratic transition

Logging into the system was not difficult, and people were able to download the registry.

Likud has not commented on the leak, and it is unclear how many people downloaded the registry before Feed-b found the leak and plugged it.

The application also has Israeli users from abroad, including the United States, China, Moldova and Russia.

People are protesting Trump's Middle East plan [Getty]
Netanyahu had encouraged supporters to download the app, which offers news and information about the election less than a year after the first two elections failed to provide a straight forward winner.

In response to the leak, the Privacy Protection Authority, a unit of the Justice Ministry said the responsibility for complying with privacy law “lies with the parties themselves.”

Annexation plans 

As the March 2 election date draws nearer, Israeli politicians have been doubling down on nationalistic rhetoric, and are using Palestine to get votes, with Netanyahu once again pushing for an annexation of the valley - which is one third of the West Bank.

The United States' ambassador on Sunday warned Israel against annexing parts of the occupied West Bank without Washington's consent.

This comes as human rights organisations and leaders across the world – including Turkey and Iran – condemn Israel’s annexation plans.

President Donald Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century", unveiled late last month, is widely considered to have given Tel Aviv the green light to annex the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu initially sought to swiftly "apply Israeli law" - a by-word for de-facto annexation - to occupied territories earmarked under the plan ahead of Israel's national elections on March 2, but pushback from Washington has seen the premier back down, much to the chagrin of his right-wing base.

The White House has specified that the move must be agreed under a joint US-Israeli mapping process.

"Israel is subject to the completion [of] a mapping process by a joint Israeli-American committee. Any unilateral action in advance of the completion of the committee process endangers the Plan & American recognition," US envoy David Friedman said in a tweet on Sunday.

Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram to stay connected