The Mossad and the Shin Bet are investigating an incident in which the phones of dozens of cryptocurrency executives in Israel were hacked and their online identities stolen, a Haaretz report said on Wednesday.
Neither the Prime Minister’s Office, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the Mossad nor the Israel National Cyber Directorate had responded to a Jerusalem Post request for comment by press time.
The report’s claim that the Mossad and the Shin Bet were involved in probing the September 7 incident was unusual because typically, when civilian institutions are hacked, the INCD is the lead party.
In contrast, the intelligence agencies tend to deal with military and national security threats.
Though it was unclear from the report why or to what extent the intelligence agencies would be involved, the report did say that potential foreign nation-state actors were connected to the hack due to its sophistication.
The report described a complex web of hacking various technological systems in third-party countries in order to falsely fool the cellphone service provider Partner into activating a roaming function, which in turn provided access to the cellphones.
According to the report, its main genius came from this vulnerability that allows hackers to send text messages to the victims which appeared to come from official sources.
Next, the hackers demanded that the around 20 Israeli cryptocurrency executives pay digital currency to regain electronic access.
Despite the hackers’ success in infiltrating the executives’ systems, the report described the hack as ultimately being a failure.
Although the report did not spell out what failed, the narrative appeared to indicate that the cyber firm Pandora was involved in assisting many or all of the executives in extricating themselves from the hack without substantial losses.
Pandora co-founder and former NSO Group official Tzahi Ganot is extensively quoted in the report to explain the circumstances and mentions Shin Bet and Mossad officials being involved in probing the incident.
Despite the breach, the hack overall failed because none of the victims, as far as Ganot can tell, fell for it and transferred money to the hackers. The identity of the hackers remains unknown.