A massive security breach shook the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) on Thursday after it was discovered that one of the cleaners at Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s home was a serial convicted criminal who tried to spy on him.
The Central District Attorney’s Office indicted Oren Goren in Lod District Court on Thursday for allegedly contacting the hacker group Black Shadow and offering his services as a spy.
Many experts identify Black Shadow as linked to Iran.
The attempt was thwarted by the Shin Bet, and no classified material was revealed, said the Justice Ministry.
The Shin Bet said that its vetting processes had failed to catch Goren, though a simple Google search found he had a criminal record including 14 arrests, five convictions, and four separate stints in jail.
Though the Shin Bet initially focused on its success in thwarting the attempted spying, the agency later addressed the failure of its vetting process. “In light of the incident, there will be a reevaluation of the security vetting processes for positions around protected officials,” it said. “Lessons have already been learned.”
It appears that Goren was able to skip a thorough vetting process since he had already worked for Gantz and Gantz’s neighbors over a period of years before Gantz became defense minister.
Because of the prior history, Goren was grandfathered into being able to continue to work for Gantz, with a much more basic security check than new workers who Gantz might have taken on after he became defense minister.
According to a Justice Ministry statement, the 37-year-old Goren, from Lod, offered to supply information from within the minister’s house, such as classified documents from Gantz’s computer.
Goren proposed to Black Shadow that he install a virus onto Gantz’s personal computer.
He contacted the group after reports last month about Black Shadow and its hacking attempts on Israeli targets.
According to the indictment, he contacted the group via Telegram under a false identity and said he worked for the defense minister.
He told the group that he could assist them in exchange for payment.
He sent the Black Shadow representative photographs of a number of items in Gantz’s house in order to prove his intentions.
Items photographed included a desk, computers, a tablet, a box with an IDF label, a locked safe, a shredding machine, IP numbers, a package with a label listing the souvenirs that Gantz received as IDF chief of staff, framed photos of Gantz and his family, and municipal tax bills said the indictment.
He then erased the Telegram chat and the pictures from his cellphone.
Trying to reduce the severity of his legal situation, Goren’s lawyer and some family members said that he was a foolish common thief desperate for money, and lacked the ideology or capability to pull off spying for Iran.
The investigation was coordinated with Gantz, said the ministry.
There was also criticism leveled against the defense minister, since this is not the first time he has been the target of hostile intelligence operations.
Gantz’s cellphone was hacked in March 2019, in an operation that was likely linked to Iran.
The Shin Bet told Gantz he would need to assume that any information on his phone was compromised by groups hostile to Israel, but no classified information was believed to be on the phone at the time.