Digital World: Security breaches: Not just 'made in Israel'

Any discerning Web surfer can find out a thing or two about how Israel's enemies are preparing for war.

Ahmadinejad 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Ahmadinejad 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Here's some good news to mull over as we head into Pessah: If we've got security breaches, so do "they" - they being Israel's mortal enemies. Readers will have certainly read this story (, a Jerusalem Post scoop, describing serious security breaches on Facebook. IDF soldiers have posted details of their bases, weapons they have worked with, and personal information about who they are and what they do in the IDF. A special IDF unit, the article says, has been searching Facebook for months trying to identify and, hopefully, eliminate the information, which could potentially be used against Israel in a future war. It's the same on Google Earth; terrorists have, by their own admission, used information on GE to target Israeli sites ( "Members of the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a group aligned with the Fatah political party, say they use the popular Internet mapping tool to help determine their targets for rocket strikes. 'We obtain the details from Google Earth and check them against our maps of the city center and sensitive areas,' Khaled Jaabari, the group's commander in Gaza who is known as Abu Walid, told the Guardian. Abu Walid showed the Guardian an aerial image of the Israeli town of Sderot on his computer to demonstrate how his group searches for targets." All this, in addition to the insult and injury both Google Earth ( and Facebook ( cause us as a nation and a people. But what's good for the Israeli goose is good for the Iranian and Syrian gander. They, too, have military secrets that are "out there," and a discerning Web surfer could find out a thing or two about how Israel's enemies are preparing for war. Much information of use to terrorists anywhere in the world is publicly available on the Web. Many shopping malls, for example, have detailed information about the way the building was constructed, the plumbing or air filtration system, or similar details that an ambitious terrorist could take advantage of. And there are also sites that have useful tidbits and nuggets about security procedures, weapons and other interesting information for almost every country in the world (it helps to be multilingual, though). Even local map sites have interesting and useful information that maybe shouldn't be there. I found a couple of what I thought were "questionable" items on a well-known Israeli map site (I won't mention what or where, for obvious reasons, but I did e-mail the site). What's good about services like Google Earth and Facebook is that they're "concentrated" - everything you need is on one site, if you know what you're looking for. And no country is safe; finding out "secrets" is often more about human error (as in the case of the IDF soldiers and Facebook), or intelligent people putting two and two together. Intelligence experts in Europe last week noticed something different on a satellite photo taken in Iran recently, and determined that Iran was developing long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching targets in Europe (now they know how it feels). Of course, anybody with access to a multimillion-dollar satellite that can take high-resolution photos from space of objects two feet off the ground ( can pull off the same trick. But you don't need to spend a lot of money on satellite photos to figure out what the Iranians are doing. All you need is a quick eye on Google Earth, like the person at While the hi-res photo didn't reveal the specific site in Iran where the missile development is taking place, comparing the hi-res photo with older images of Iran on GE, the poster of this information figured out where the new facility was - right down to the building: "Entering the coordinates N 35 13 19, E 53 53 41 reveals a Digital Globe satellite image of the facility taken earlier than" the one cited by Jane's (the site was referred to in the article as "a previously unknown missile location, the site, about 230 kilometers. southeast of Teheran"). Another intelligent guess on intelligence regarding Iran can be seen at, where the author extrapolates what Iran would do with the the S-300PT SAM system it purchased from Belarus (it got two from Belarus and two from an "undisclosed source"). The author of this blog cites his source as Jane's, and discusses several other weapons and defensive systems Iran has acquired recently. Being apparently less innovative than Israel in how its weapons are deployed, the author makes a case for a scenario in how the systems would be used to defend strategic Iranian interests, including Teheran and the country's nuclear facilities. Attached to the analysis are images of Google Earth, marked up with diagrams showing how the missile systems (to be used for defensive purposes, the author said) would be deployed, as well as the most logical locations for the systems, given their known capabilities. GE has also helped reveal to the wider world the "secret" of Syria's nuclear weapons deployment in the North of the country. The Ogle Earth site (, which is where GE geeks go to share ideas, analyzes the satellite photos of the September 6 raid (officially, we still don't know who was behind it), and based on information quoted in the name of a "senior US official," pinpoints what the site believes to be the "single spot" where the facility could have been. The building where the facility was being built for the last six years, according to intelligence reports (, should have shown up in GE - and indeed it does, following the coordinates based on the analysis listed. Of course, Israel's security is a lot more important to us then Iran's or Syria's - and Israelis, as citizens of the nation with the highest per capita amount of computer ownership in the world, have more opportunities to make mistakes. (It's hard to imagine Syrian troops forming a club on Facebook.) With greater opportunity comes greater responsibility, of course - but it's nice to see that the system can work in our favor sometimes, too!