Iran-linked hackers tried to reach Netanyahu’s son via Likud activists – report

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A group of hackers apparently linked to Iran who have targeted activists in Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party attempted to make contact with his son Yair Netanyahu, according to a TV report on Thursday.

Hackers have contacted Likud members and offered to help organize protests, fund protests, prepare banners and open groups on the Telegram messaging app, in an apparent effort to sow discord , according to FakeReporter, who first discovered the effort.

In an exchange published by Channel 12, an alleged Iranian-linked online impostor urges a Likud activist to stage a protest against the governing coalition in Tel Aviv.

The account asks organizer Orly Lev about funding and banner printing. Lev said she didn’t realize at the time that she was corresponding with an impostor.

Round-trip exchanges lasted for weeks, according to the report, with the hacker offering help and services and trying to pass them on to people closer to Netanyahu, including his son.

The hacker offered to help with the graphic design and sent the organizer a sample poster.

In an exchange, Lev offered advice on a design, saying, “I would remove the part that says rage protest.” It looks like an Arab thing. I would add an Israeli flag. And the map of Israel at the top does not have the Golan.

The hacker replies, “We’re going to make an amazing poster. Will you pass it to Yair? “

Lev said Yair Netanyahu “was unrelated to this”. She told Channel 12 that the hackers believed she was in contact with Yair Netanyahu and tried to reach him through him on several other occasions.

Channel 12 first reported on the hacking network on Wednesday.

The report did not specify which platform the two were chatting on or when the exchange took place, but the alleged impostor does mention being at a September 23 rally in Tel Aviv that Lev posted on Facebook.

A demonstration in support of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Habima Square in Tel Aviv, August 12, 2021 (Avshalom Sassoni / Flash90)

According to the report, the person who contacted Lev was linked to a network of fake accounts on social media platforms that targeted prominent activists of Netanyahu’s Likud Party and other Israelis, sharing extremist political content with the aim to stir up tensions across the country.

“They are not coming to hurt Likud. They are coming to destroy Israel, ”said Achiya Schatz, CEO of FakeReporter.

The report claimed that a group of Iranian hackers were behind the fake accounts, but did not offer definitive evidence linking the bots to Tehran.

In July, FakeReporter published a report on a similar effort by so-called Iranian hackers to stir up anti-Netanyahu sentiment ahead of the 2021 election, including posing as Black Flag protesters and addressing directly to Israelis via small WhatsApp groups and other encrypted ones. messaging applications.

Facebook later confirmed that the activity was linked to an Iranian group that had previously been reported for similar activity among Palestinians.

“Iran-based threat actors are among the most persistent and wealthy groups attempting to operate online, including on our platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told The New York Times in the time.

Two meters apart, thousands of protesters attend a “black flag” demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday, April 25, 2020 (Miriam Alster / Flash90)

As with the previous campaign, alleged pro-Netanyahu hackers used a network of fake accounts with Hebrew names and generic photos stolen from the internet to contact Israelis directly, using them to amplify their messages.

At least 10 fake Facebook profiles have shared memes and other political content, successfully infiltrating 50 Likud groups, 33 general political groups and nine anti-Netanyahu groups, giving them exposure to over a million Israelis on the social media platform, Channel 12 reported.

Lev told Channel 12 that she shared a post from one of the allegedly bogus profiles calling for a protest against Prime Minister Naftali Bennett minutes after it was sent to her.

She later became increasingly suspicious of the account when those behind her began offering money to organize the protest.

Another fake Twitter account managed to convince former Likud MP Nissim Vatouri to share her cell phone number by simply tweeting him that she wanted to send him a message.

“The direct approach to Israeli citizens, made through internal protesters”
WhatsApp groups represent a dangerous escalation of methods. Establishment
personal connection with unsuspecting citizens is a new technique and is
suspected of being simply the tip of the iceberg regarding methods of
intervention in Israeli democracy, ”FakeReporter said in its previous report.

Channel 12 said defense establishment sources had been made aware of the network and were also investigating the case.

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