Videos, photos, and documents of Israel’s intelligence chief, David Barnea, were leaked online on an anonymous Telegram account created only hours before disseminating the content online. The account only had 30 followers at the time the leaked content was published.
The Telegram account “Open Hands” claimed that the information was obtained after a lengthy operation initiated in 2014 back when David Barnea was head of Mossad’s Tzomet department responsible for activating Mossad’s international agent network.
The account also posted a special message for Israel’s intelligence chief, which read, “We’ve got a small gift for the Mossad; ‘With LOVE for David’. Happy Purim,” referring to the public holiday being observed in commemoration of the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, as recounted in the book of Esther. The account also revealed that more content would be released very soon.
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The content released online showed several personal photos, Barnea’s ID card and flight tickets, and “tax warnings” to Barneas wife, Ronnie Barnea. After the leaks, a statement from the Prime Minister’s office on behalf of Mossad’s head that Barnea’s phone, which is encrypted and secured, was not hacked, and the materials in question were old.
However, the prime ministers’ office did not provide any further clarification. A video of Barnea making silly faces in front of the camera was also published online. Although the group did not claim where it was from, some media observers immediately started pointing fingers at Iran – a long-time rival of Israel.
To clarify, Iran was attacked last month, which caused heavy damage to its defense infrastructure and destroyed many of the country’s drone sites. Tehran has used drones extensively in recent years and also supported militias in the middle east by providing them with the weapon.
🇮🇷 An Iranian hacker hacked the computer of the head of Mossad 🇮🇱, David Barnea. Private photos of him were published with pictures of travel data and airline tickets. – Israeli Media pic.twitter.com/bvIjgvNqwo
— Intelsky (@Intel_sky) March 16, 2022
Soon after the Iranian drone sites were attacked, Iran launched a barrage of rockets and missiles into Iraq, where, according to some reports, Israeli operatives who conducted the attack on Iranian drone sites were sheltered. Just two days prior Israeli government was also targetted by a cyber attack.
Following the attack, Israel’s National Cyber Directorate said that “In the last few hours, a denial of service [DDoS] attack has been identified on a communications provider which, as a result, has for a short time prevented access to a number of sites, including government sites,” with some offices even terming the attack as the largest ever cyber attack launched against Israel.
Cyber Attacks on Iran
Israel has also conducted numerous cyberattacks against Iran. In 2021 Iran’s nuclear facility was targetted by a cyber attack. An unexplained blackout at Natanz was observed, which is thought to be triggered by the Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran’s nuclear energy chief described the incident as an act of terrorism that warranted a response.
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Prior to this, Mossad, in a joint venture with the CIA in 2010, attacked the nuclear facility of Iran using Stuxnet – a computer virus – which caused widespread damage and delayed the Iranian nuclear program. It is estimated that the Stuxnet worm destroyed around 984 uranium-enriching centrifuges leading to a significant decrease in uranium enrichment efficiency.