Hackers Sold Ehud Barak's Information to Iran, Report Says

Shin Bet informed former prime minister of breach several months ago, Channel 12 reports

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FILE Photo: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during a lecture at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 21, 2016.
FILE Photo: Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak during a lecture at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, September 21, 2016. Credit: Charles Krupa / AP

Information from former Prime Minister Ehud Barak's computer and cell phone was purchased by Iran after hackers accessed the devices, Israel's Channel 12 reported on Sunday. Tehran did not hack the devices itself, according to sources who spoke with Channel 12. 

Nadav Argaman, the head of the Shin Bet security service, informed Barak of the breach several months ago, the report said. According to the sources, the breach was not a result of carelessness on the part of Barak and the stolen content did not contain embarrassing information. Barak and the Shin Bet declined to respond to the report. 

Haaretz Weekly, Episode 19

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On Thursday, Channel 12 reported that the phone of Benny Gantz, chairman of Kahol Lavan, was hacked by Iranian intelligence. The report was later confirmed by Kahol Lavan in an official statement that read: "We don't comment on issues that are at the heart of state security. It is important to emphasize that this incident happened four years after Gantz finished his tenure as chief of staff, [a fact] that raises many questions regarding the timing of the report's publication."

>> Read more: Iranian hacking of Gantz's phone could open door to blackmail - and impact Israel's election | Analysis ■  Israeli cyber chief cautioned of election interference ■ Gantz phone-hacking affair: 9 questions that must be answered | Analysis 

According to the report by journalist Amit Segal, Gantz was approached by two officials from Israel's Shin Bet security service five weeks ago, during the election campaign, and was informed that his private device was breached. The two told Gantz that the hack into one of his devices occured around that time, during the election campaign, and that the Iranians have the content of his phone.

The report said that the Shin Bet officials clarified to the ex-Israel Defense Forces chief that this meant Tehran had access to all kinds of information he may have stored on his phone: personal and professional. Gantz was also informed that this served as a potential security risk, seeing as Iran might unveil information it finds on his cellphone after the election, or tamper with the election process. 

According to the report, the Shin Bet told the former general was told that he could "proceed according to his own judgement." 

Due to the sensitivity of the report, Segal noted that the Israeli censor approved the publication of the information before he went on air. 

The Shin Bet did not comment on the report. 

Concerns over foreign interference in the Israeli election have been voiced by Israeli officials in the lead-up to the ballot.

In January, Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman said that a foreign country intends to intervene in Israel's upcoming election via hackers and cybertechnology. Argaman said it remains unclear at this point what the foreign nation's political interests are, but that "It will meddle – and I know what I'm talking about."

Last month Haaretz reported that Israel's National Cyber Directorate warned that cyber attacks could influence the outcome of the upcoming election as early as last October, nearly three months prior to a similar statement made by the head of the Shin Bet.

The threat is the stream of assaults on state facilities, Yigal Unna said at a conference on high tech at the Sha’arei Mishpat Academic Center of Law and Science in Hod Hasharon, which was also attended by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Israel Defense Forces' outgoing Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.

“They do not shut down a country, but they impact its ability to function: disrupting electricity, banks, finances and election results,” said Unna, adding that "Israel is in a fairly good condition in terms of its cyber security, but not in the best place in which it could be."

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