Israel's Foreign Ministry Targeted by Computer Virus Bearing IDF Chief's Name

Emails mentioning Benny Gantz's name received by employees of foreign ministry and at embassies abroad.

Barak Ravid
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Barak Ravid

A number of Israel's government offices have fallen victim to a cyber attack over the last week, one apparently aimed at slipping a "Trojan horse" into the computer servers at these ministries.

The "Trojan horse" has been sent as files attached to emails bearing the name of Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz in the subject line.

It's not yet clear if the "Benny Gantz" virus is linked in any way to the cyber threat that forced the Israel Police to disconnect its computers from the civilian network earlier Thursday.

A senior government clerk stressed that the threat facing the police was being investigated by experts, but at the moment it seemed to be an isolated incident.

Haaretz has gotten access to a cable sent Wednesday by the Foreign Ministry's defense department to all ministry employees both in Israel and abroad, warning that unusual e-mails had been noticed in various delegations and embassies over the course of the last week.

Those emails either mention IDF Chief Gantz or were sent from an address bearing his name. The body of the email contained remarks made by Israeli politicians. Some of the emails also contained requests for friendship on Facebook or links to Gant's website.

Dozens of identical emails were sent Wednesday to Israel embassies abroad and to Foreign Ministry employees in Israel, but this time, an automated system identified them as "offensive" – in other words viruses, or Trojan horses – and warned that opening them would activate them and penetrate the central computer system.

Foreign Ministry employees were warned that these messages could reach them either via their email system or Facebook. They were instructed not to open any strange emails, and to report any such instance to the defense department.

Cyberwarfare (illustration)Credit: AP