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Security Brief: CENTCOM Week of November 15, 2021

Week of Monday, November 15, 2021 | Issue 47

Yechezkel Mehlman, Filipe Neves, Sofia Pantoula, Alberto Suarez, CENTCOM Team


Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz[1]


Date: November 18, 2021

Location: Residence of Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Rosh Haayin, Israel

Parties involved: Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz; Omri Goren; Shin Bet; Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Moses Staff; Black Shadow; Iran

The event: Omri Goren, cleaner and caretaker at the house of Israel's Defense Minister Benny Gantz, was charged with espionage after offering hacking firm Black Shadow, linked to Iran, access to the minister's computer.[2] Goren had a criminal record, being jailed for charges of armed robbery and breaking into homes.[3] He was arrested shortly after contacting Black Shadow and before he was able to carry out the plan. Through the media, Goren was aware of Black Shadow's hacking attempts on the Israeli government.[4] His motivations were allegedly financial.[5] Pictures of Gantz’s computer, house, phone, desk, tablet, closed safe, shredder, family, and a copy of his local property tax payment were taken by Goren to prove his ability to hack the defense minister.[6] Goren’s arrest came only days after a reportedly successful cyberattack against the Israeli Defense Ministry by a hacker group named "Moses Staff."[7] The event has raised doubts about the strength of security reviews in Israel, with reports stating that Goren did not undergo a background check before working for Gantz.[8] Gantz had been the target of a cyberattack in 2019 by Iran when his phone was hacked shortly after announcing his political bid.[9]

Analysis and Implications:

  • Goren’s criminal record was very likely ignored when being hired as Gantz’s cleaner. This almost certainly reveals that there are flaws in Shin Bet’s — Israel’s internal security service — vetting for personnel working with political figures. It is likely that people with similar profiles to Goren work for key Israeli political figures. This is almost certain to be a security threat.

  • Gantz’s status as Defense Minister and former chief of staff very likely made him an ideal target for a cyberattack by Iran-linked hacking groups. Israeli security services almost certainly ignored that Gantz was a likely target of Iranian interference. This likely reveals that there are flaws in the provision of security by the Israeli intelligence community, which are likely to be exploited by its enemies.

  • The media coverage of cyberattacks likely inspires individuals working in sensitive sites to offer themselves to hacking groups. The current coverage of Goren’s actions is likely to reinforce this trend, for it almost certainly shows that Israeli political figures are easily accessible.

  • Black Shadow will very likely use pictures taken by Goren to try another hacking attempt at Gantz, either infecting his computer or tablet, or disguising themselves as family members. Details over property tax payment, especially any signs of fraud, are likely to be employed to blackmail Gantz.

  • Goren being arrested before he was able to carry out his plan likely reveals that Israeli security remains strong.

  • It is very likely that questions will be raised on how Goren was able to work despite his criminal record. It is very likely that such questions will lead to calls for the resignation of personnel in Shin Bet, likely due to the failures Goren’s case showed concerning the efficiency of background checks.

  • It is very likely that the repeated failures in security provision by the Israeli intelligence community indicate multiple loopholes across its systems. It is likely that hacker groups will increase their activities in light of these flaws.

  • Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will likely use this incident to increase doubt among Israelis and right-wing parties in the coalition about this government's ability to protect the country against Iran. Since Iran is one of Israel's primary threats, Netanyahu will almost certainly continue to take advantage of these incidents to gain popularity and convince at least one party to leave the coalition. If one party joins the opposition, the government will lose its 61-seat majority in the Knesset and Netanyahu will almost certainly have another attempt to become prime minister.

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________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz” by U.S. Secretary of Defense licensed under Creative Commons

[2] Israel's defence minister’s housekeeper charged with spying, The Guardian, November 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/18/israel-defence-ministers-housekeeper-charged-with-spying?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[3] Gantz’s housekeeper accused of offering to spy for Iran, i24 News, November 2021, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/1637233483-gantz-s-housekeeper-accused-of-offering-to-spy-for-iran

[4] Cleaner at Gantz's home attempted to contact Iran-linked hackers, officials say, YnetNews, November 2021, https://www.ynetnews.com/article/sypbenxoy

[5] Gantz’s house cleaner, an ex banker robber, accused of trying to spy on him for Iran, The Times of Israel, November 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/gantzs-house-cleaner-accused-of-trying-to-spy-on-him-on-behalf-of-iran/

[6] Ibid

[7] Israel: Hacker group leaks information on Ministry of Defense, i24 News, October 2021, https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy-defense/1635396174-hacker-group-leaks-information-on-israeli-ministry-of-defense

[8] Israel's defence minister's housekeeper charged with spying, The Guardian, November 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/18/israel-defence-ministers-housekeeper-charged-with-spying?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

[9] Gantz on hacking of his phone by Iran: ‘Political gossip’, The Times of Israel, March 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/gantz-on-hacking-of-his-phone-by-iran-political-gossip/

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