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US Group: Iranian Hackers Target Israelis on Facebook

Iranian hackers use social media networks to spy on Israelis, by pretending to be their online 'friends,' a US organization said.
By Yaakov Levi
First Publish: 5/29/2014, 12:14 PM

Hackers (illustration)
Hackers (illustration)
AFP/File

Iranian hackers used social media networks to spy on Israelis, and supporters of Israel in the US and Britain, a report by an American security firm said Thursday. The report, by the iSight security group, said that Iranian hackers used profiles on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media vehicles to trick Israelis and supporters of Israel to connect to unsafe links on a phony news web site, where they would be sent a virus that could sweep their computers and gather information about logins and passwords for e-mail accounts and sensitive web sites.

According to the group, the Iranians embarked on an elaborate, multi-year scheme to trick high-level government and defense industry officials into linking to stories on the suspect site, Newsonair.org. There, they would be sent virus programs that could gather information and sent it back to the hackers. iSight said that it wasn't clear what, if any, information was compromised, but that at least 2,000 people were affected.

According to the organization, there was no direct evidence linking Iran with the operation. However, it said, the Newsonair.org was registered to an Iranian entity, and the hackers appeared to post messages during Tehran work hours. The hackers would send persona messages to the victims, building up their trust, and maintaining a long-term relationship with them on-line.

According to iSight, the operation was “a brazen, complex multi-year cyber-espionage that used a low-tech approach to avoid traditional security defense-exploiting social media and people who are often the 'weakest link' in the security chain. This underscores the importance of cyber threat intelligence that enables enterprises to proactively tune defenses to combat a determined and persistent adversary utilizing constantly evolving tactics,” the group said.