Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Russia supplied hacking tech to Iran allegedly used on Benjamin Netanyahu’s main challenger: report

Benny Gantz is accused of having his phone breached by Tehran, a move he says is likely a political leak

Former Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz speaks at the official launch of his election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel. AP
Former Israeli Chief of Staff Benny Gantz speaks at the official launch of his election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel. AP

Russia recently gave Iran the technology to hack phones remotely without the target having to do anything to allow the breach to take place, software that Tehran allegedly used to enter the phone of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s main election rival, Benny Gantz.

Most hacking of phones takes place with a piece of Trojan malware where users have to click a link or open a file to be infected. But the technology passed from Moscow to Tehran is known as zero-click technology and does not require any action on the part of the receiving party, according to a report on Israeli television.

The development is significant because that software was reportedly used to hack the phone of Mr Gantz.

Israel and Russia are allies who work closely on the Syrian civil war, where the Russian air force is helping Syrian President Bashar Al Assad win back territory lost over the eight-year civil war. Israel is concerned about the outbreak of a conflict and has understandings in place with Moscow to avoid any flare-ups.

According to the report, Israeli intelligence agents told former head of the Israeli military Mr Gantz that Iran had acquired details on his phone such as text messages that could be used against him in the future.

Mr Gantz and his Blue and White Party say no sensitive information was on the phone and that he had long left the military if and when it was breached.

The revelation comes a particularly sensitive time for Mr Gantz, with him leading Mr Netanyahu in the polls ahead of the April 9 election.

His party has asked Israel’s attorney general to investigate the leaking of the claim that he was hacked by Iran, alleging that it appears to be “political gossip” spread to harm him before the vote. It said the vote could only have come from Israel’s security services, which fall under the purview of Mr Netanyahu.

“Given that the ‘hack’ reportedly took place a long time ago, and given that it’s inconceivable that a source in the security services would leak details about an alleged ‘Iranian hack,’ and noting the timing of the ‘leak’ [in the middle of an election campaign] – it was clearly done by someone who has access to sensitive defense information and possesses an interest in harming Gantz,” the party charged in an official appeal to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit on Saturday night.

Updated: March 17, 2019 07:01 PM

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