The Israeli military announced Tuesday it foiled attempts by Hamas, the Palestinian fundamentalist group that governs the Gaza Strip, to spy on Israeli soldiers by gaining access to their phones.
Israeli Defense Forces launched Operation Broken Heart to investigate and eliminate the threat in response to reports from soldiers receiving strange messages, the Washington Post reports. An investigation uncovered three Hamas-operated apps on Google Play.
An Israeli senior intelligence officer said Hamas militants tried to reach out to Israeli soldiers on social media and then urged them to download dating and other apps that would give Hamas access to their phones. Hamas would initiate contact through Facebook, often pretending to be young women, and then move the conversation to WhatsApp, the officer said.
The Hamas militants' ultimate goal was to compromise the soldiers' cell phones with Trojan horse viruses, the Jerusalem Post reports.
An investigation by the IDF’s Military Intelligence found that the 11 suspicious individuals (three who approached soldiers on WhatsApp, another eight approached soldiers on Facebook) were an intelligence network of the Hamas terrorist organization which asked the soldiers to download applications which compromised their cell phones with Trojan horse viruses.
The applications used by Hamas included two social networking applications, WinkChat, and GlanceLove, and an application for fans of the World Cup-GoldenCup. All applications had between 400 to 500 downloads before being removed from the Google App store
The virus would give Hamas access to soldiers’ pictures, location, messages, and contacts. Hamas would also be able to record conversations using the phone’s microphone.
Most soldiers did not cooperate with the suspicious accounts and instead reported the strange activity to military intelligence.
Hamas has tried using social media to steal information from soldiers in the past. IDF and Shin Bet, one of the primary components of Israel's intelligence community that is also known as the Israel Security Agency or ISA, launched a joint endeavor called Operation Hunter’s Network last year. It similarly discovered dozens of fake social media accounts being used by Hamas militants in an attempt to honeypot Israeli soldiers.
Israeli soldiers have been warned to be cautious on social media, being told to only accept friend requests from people they already know, to refrain from uploading sensitive information to social networks, and to download applications only from the original App Store–not through links.