A cleaner at Defense Minister Benny Gantz's home has been charged with espionage after allegedly offering an Iran-linked hacker group to plant malware on the minister's computer, the Justice Ministry said Thursday.
The indictment against Omri Goren Gorochovsky, a 37-year-old convicted felon from Lod, said he worked at Gantz's home for years and approached the Black Shadow hacker group following a series of articles attributing cyberattacks against Israel to the group.
The suspect used the Telegram app to locate and contact a Black Shadow representative and approached him under a false identity, presenting himself as someone who works for Gantz and saying he could help the group in various ways, according to the indictment.
He told the group that he could provide information from the house and offered to install malware on the minister's computer, the indictment said.
The suspect has been sentenced to jail time on four occasions, including for armed robbery and breaking into homes. He did not undergo a security review before beginning to work for Gantz.
In order to prove his seriousness, the suspect photographed numerous items in the home and sent them to the member of Black Shadow, including a desk, computers, a phone, a tablet, a package bearing a sticker with an IP address on it, a locked safe, a shredder, and more, according to the indictment, which said he erased all the interactions from his Telegram app.
Black Shadow has targeted Israelis on several occasions, including the release of private information from an LGBTQ dating site after it infiltrated the servers of the Israeli web hosting site Cyberserve.
Shin Bet said that it considers the incident a serious failing on the organization's part. Following the revelation, Shin Bet officials said they are reexamining security vetting procedures for individuals with access to senior officials provided with security protection. The occurrence indicates a failure in assessing the background of someone with access to the defense minister, and the suspect should have been flagged earlier.
Goren began working in Gantz's home in 2018. When Gantz became deputy prime minister in 2020, he presented Shin Bet a list of staff who had potential access to sensitive information, but the security service failed to review Goren. The Shin Bet are examining this oversight.
Shin Bet security service emphasized in a statement that Goren did not have access to any classified information because of the data security protocol at the residence, and therefore could not have passed on any classified information. However, security and legal sources said the case was a serious oversight that did carry a risk of damage to national security.
The suspect's public defender, Attorney Gal Wolf, said that "following investigation by security officials, they understood that the cleaner's version [of events] is correct and that he had no intention to damage national security and did not damage national security. He claims he acted out of economic distress."