Haaretz Writer Receives Threats After Reporting on Israeli Health Ministry

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Anyone can fake Israel’s vaccination certificate, cybersecurity firm Check Point reveals; Health Ministry says issue will be addressed
Anyone can fake Israel’s vaccination certificate, cybersecurity firm Check Point reveals; Health Ministry says issue will be addressed Credit: Check Point (screen capture)

A writer for Haaretz has received anonymous threats against him and his family after he wrote several reports that were critical of Israel’s Health Ministry. The writer, Ran Bar-Zik, writes about cybersecurity for Haaretz’s Hebrew-language edition in the technology and internet culture section, which is called Captain Internet. The Health Ministry condemned the threatening messages and said they would examine the issue.

Over the past weeks, Haaretz published a number of stories about the shortcomings and risks of Israel’s digital coronavirus vaccination certificate, also known as the green passport. Bar-Zik recently published a report warning the certificate could be easily forged.

Haaretz informed the Health Ministry about the exploits before the article was published. However, the issues were not addressed, even after the digital version of the certificate launched.

Two messages were sent to Bar-Zik anonymously on Wednesday, both using a Tor web browser, which makes their origins impossible to trace. The messages included veiled threats to his wife and children, who were mentioned by name, as were his and his wife’s ID numbers.

“Your outrageous slander and lies will come back to haunt you,” one of the messages said. “The Health Ministry workers will not forget the dirt you poured all over them so quickly. We’re sure your future employers will also like to know that you are a dirty liar.”

Another message called him out for “shitting on the wonderful people who work so hard for the Health Ministry.” The message then noted his family members’ personal details and suggests he “calm down” with his reporting.

The messages were sent late Wednesday night after Bar-Zik published a follow-up report about a possible bug in one of the Health Ministry’s systems. The bug was potentially revealed after a minister was mistakenly sent into quarantine and was accused of lying about her whereabouts. Bar-Zik published a report in Hebrew about new findings into the bug made possible due to a Freedom of Information Act filed by Israeli digital rights groups.

In his report, Bar-Zik wrote that the ministry refused to supply the requested information, citing fears of leaks of sensitive materials. However, as he explained, the information as well as their concerns were indicative of wider issues, including the mismanagement of code development, debugging and quality assurance.

In response to the messages, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry condemned the threats, and said: “From an examination we conducted, we know of no threats made by any workers of our IT department. It is important to stress that the Health Ministry condemns the use of violence of any form, be it physical or verbal.”

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