Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency is probing a hack of Israeli President Isaac Herzog’s account on the Telegram messaging app, the President’s Residence in Jerusalem announced on Thursday.
According to an initial investigation, the background of the hack was criminal rather than terrorism-related. No information was compromised, and the account has since been restored, according to the Shin Bet.
Gilad Leibovitch, academic director for a wide array of cybersecurity-related study tracks at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the hackers had likely hoped to obtain high-level intelligence information.
“The most common technique used by hackers is ‘phishing.’ They present themselves as a trustworthy person or corporate entity, sometimes impersonating the official communications of an app such as Telegram, and trick the recipient into revealing sensitive information,” explained Leibovitch.
Last year, a cleaner formerly employed at the home of then-Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz pleaded guilty to aiding hackers that Jerusalem said were affiliated with the Iranian regime.
After establishing contact with the Black Shadow hacker group via Telegram, Omri Goren, 37, promised to install a “worm” on Gantz’s computer. After Black Shadow expressed doubt regarding Goren’s access to the defense minister, the cleaner photographed Gantz’s desk, his computers, his telephone, some packaging on which the computer’s IP address appeared and Gantz’s city-tax bill.
The would-be espionage comprised a failure on the part of the Shin Bet, whose agents apparently did not conduct a background check on Goren, who had 14 prior convictions on charges, including armed robbery, theft, and breaking and entering.
At the time, the Shin Bet accepted responsibility for the incident, emphasizing that there had been no harm to Israel’s national security. The agency said it would draw immediate conclusions from the incident, though it’s not clear whether anyone involved was held accountable.