Israeli Defense Minister's Twitter Account Hacked; Feed Features Palestinian Flag

Naftali Bennett's office says hackers had access to his account for merely several seconds, but Pro-Turkish and Palestinian statements were seen on the minister's feed for at least seven minutes

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A screenshot of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett's hacked Twitter account, March 7, 2020.
A screenshot of Defense Minister Naftali Bennett's hacked Twitter account, March 7, 2020. Credit: Twitter screenshot

Defense Minister Naftali Bennett's Twitter account was breached overnight Friday, with followers amazed to see the Palestinian flag posted on the far-right Yamina alliance chairman's feed.

In addition, Bennett's hacked Twitter page featured pro-Turkish and Palestinian posts. The tweets were deleted shortly after followers reported them to the social media platform.

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There are no indications that the incident was linked to "hostile terrorist activities," and the hack did not breach the minister's personal email or mobile phone, but rather only his Twitter password, said the minister's office in response. 

Bennett's office added that the hackers had access to the defense minister's account for merely a few seconds. But Blogger and journalist Ido Kenan said the hackers had access to Bennett's account for at least seven minutes, during which pro-Palestinian statement were posted on the minister's feed. 

A far less likely option is that malicious elements hacked the defense minister's personal cellphone.  

The hacking of politicians' Twitter accounts is common and mostly financially and politically motivated, usually carrying mild collateral damage.

However, sophisticated hackers could cause extensive damage while having a very time-limited access to one's account. For example, in 2013 hackers took control of the Associated Press Twitter account and sent a false tweet about explosions in the White House that briefly sent U.S. financial markets reeling.

But within three minutes of the tweet's release, virtually all U.S. markets took a plunge on the false news in what one trader described as "pure chaos." 

Reuters data showed the tweet briefly wiped out $136.5 billion of the S&P 500 index’s value before markets recovered. Some traders attributed the sharp fall and bounce-back to automatic electronic trading.

A group that called itself the Syrian Electronic Army, supportive of that country’s leader, President Bashar Assad, claimed responsibility on its own Twitter feed for the AP hack.

Although breached social accounts don't pose a significant security threat, the hacking of a politician's Twitter account shows that the hackers might also get access the prominent official's other accounts, disclosing confidential and sensitive information.

Campaigners and cybersecurity experts are less worried about hacking or fake Twitter accounts than they are about text messages on Election Day.

Twitter isn’t that big in Israel; only around 17 percent of smartphone owners use it, according to a survey carried out in 2018 by the Israel Internet Society for telecom company Bezeq. 

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