Israeli Military Accuses Hamas of Trying to Hack Israeli Soldiers’ Phones by Posing as Women Seeking Romance

Hamas and Israel still exchange fire with sporadic rocket attacks and airstrikes in their long-running military standoff along the Gaza border, but the two sides are also engaged in something of an arms race on social media.

The Israeli military said Sunday that it had foiled a “catfishing” attempt to gain access to soldiers’ phones, at least the third instance since 2017 in which it said Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, had tried to dupe its troops by posing as Israeli women seeking romance.

Hamas, for its part, on Friday accused Israel of hacking one of its groups on the messaging app Telegram and posting doctored photos of Hamas intelligence officers in embarrassing poses.

The Israelis said Hamas tricked soldiers using women’s photos that had been altered to defeat easy reverse-image searches with fake names like “Yael Azoulay” and “Noa Danon.” The women had fleshed-out social media profiles, salted their texts with Hebrew slang and maintained accounts on several platforms at once.

To justify communicating only by text, the military said, the decoys said they were hearing-impaired or had speech impediments. To allay any suspicions raised by their poor command of Hebrew, they said they were new immigrants to Israel.

“Hamas is upping its game,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman.

After a few texts, the soldiers were baited to download Android-compatible apps, the army said. The apps were billed as functioning like SnapChat, but instead allowed Hamas to take control of the phone cameras and to transmit photos, audio recordings, messages and files back to Hamas servers.

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SOURCE: The New York Times, David M. Halbfinger