Cyber Security

IDF soldiers tricked into installing malicious apps by Hamas operatives posing as attractive women

Israeli Force (IDF) announced it has thwarted an attempt by the Hamas militant group to hack soldiers’ phones by posing as attractive women on social media.

Israeli Defence Force (IDF) announced it has thwarted an attempt by the Hamas militant group to hack soldiers’ mobile devices by posing as attractive women on social media and instant messaging apps (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram). The military has identified at least six social media accounts that were used by attackers to trick the victims into installing malicious apps.

The accounts were named Sarah Orlova, Maria Jacobova, Eden Ben Ezra, Noa Danon, Yael Azoulay, and Rebecca Aboxis, respectively.

Hackers infected dozens of soldiers in recent months, but IDF declared that it has detected the attack, locked out the malware and took down attackers’ infrastructure. Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus declared that the attackers were not able to steal confidential information from the victims.

“We do not assess there is any significant breach of information,” said Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus.

This kind of social engineering attacks was already used by Hamas hackers in the past, in July 2018 Israeli military intelligence accused Hamas operatives of creating tainted apps to lure soldiers into downloading spyware onto their phones. At the time, Hamas operatives created a number of fake Facebook profiles using photos of attractive women to lure IDF soldiers into private conversations, then attempted to trick them into installing one of the compromised apps.

Israeli military officials explained that Hamas operatives adopted the same tactic in a campaign launched in January 2018, when the hackers used the profile of a woman named “Elianna Amer.”

Anyway, IDF experts explained that the last campaign was by far the most sophisticated.

“We see that the level of social engineering is much higher and much more advanced and sophisticated when compared to previous attempts done by Hamas,” Conricus added. “We see that they’re of course learning and upping their game.”The “women” claimed to be new immigrants to explain their poor Hebrew, in some cases, they also claimed to be deaf to trick the soldier into texting, instead of speaking directly on the phone.

The photos used for the profiles employed in the attacks were disguised to make it difficult to “reverse track” them.

IDF experts noticed that attackers send links to the soldiers asking them to download a Snapchat-like app to exchange private photos that could quickly disappear. The links were pointing to three malicious applications (Catch&See, ZatuApp, and GrixyApp) that allowed Hamas attackers to compromise the target phones.

Once installed the apps show a crash notification and then delete their icons from the soldiers’ phone to trick them into thinking that the app was uninstalled.

In reality, the apps run in the background and allow attackers to control the victims’ phone, it could be used by attackers to exfiltrate sensitive data from the devices (i.e. photos, SMS messages, contacts, and more), install other malware on the device, track the phone’s geo-location in real-time, and activate the phone’s camera.

Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – IDF, Hamas)

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