Photo Credit: IDF
An actual exchange between an IDF soldier and a luring Hamas agent

Almost a month has passed since the IDF Military Intelligence’s Information Security Department foiled an attempt by Hamas to take use forged profiles to take over smartphones belonging to Israeli soldiers. The reports continued to flow, according to an IDF report, new Hamas avatars have been discovered, and the terrorist group’s efforts thwarted – including on Instagram.

It was hard to miss last month’s Operation Heartbroken around the IDF bases, led by the Information Security Department. Giant banners and social network ads were only part of the campaign to raise awareness about the Hamas malicious networks. The Hamas terrorist infrastructure attempted to take over IDF soldiers’ mobile phones in order to obtain classified military information.

An IDF campaign ad exposing actual avatars being used by Hamas, so soldiers would beware of them. / Photo credit: IDF

The Hamas-generated fictitious users on social networks would start with a friendly conversation with soldiers, in order to encourage them to download a fake application that would allow the penetration of their phones. The attempt was foiled, and the IDF distributed the information about the threat with Operation Broken Heart.

“Many of the reports we received from the campaign dealt with the fact that soldiers thought an application they downloaded from an official app store could not possibly be dangerous,” recalls the head of the Information Protection Policy at the IDF, Lieutenant Colonel A, who emphasized that there is a permanent and easily identifiable pattern in the behavior of the false characters:

“Every soldier who encounters such a situation must ask themselves a number of questions,” Lt. Col. A said. “Why did they turn to me of all people? Why does a person who seems to have romantic or friendly intentions ask me questions about the military or wants me to download a particular app? And, most important – why should I give permissions to an application a stranger has asked me to install?”

“After we thwarted and blocked the application activity, Hamas attempted unsuccessfully to maintain contacts that had started in the past, and create new connections with avatars that had not yet been exposed,” Lt. Col. A explained. “Thanks to the high awareness we created, these attempts were also exposed by soldiers, and thus we thwarted those new fake profiles.”

The latest round of soldier-generated reports exposed the Hamas activity on another, particularly popular social network: Instagram.

“This is a network with a heightened culture of sharing revolving entirely around images, and ‘look at me,'” explains Lt. Col. A continued. “The popularity and the need for followers makes the risk more likely, so the same guidelines must be kept there – do not allow someone you do not know to follow you, and be careful not to click on messages in your personal mailbox.”

The hub that was created at the department as part of the operation in order to absorb the soldiers’ reports on the fake profiles with which they had come in contact, has turned into a key component in thwarting the Internet terror infrastructure.

“The report is the main thing here,” Lt. Col. A emphasized, “because of it, the preventive action is maintained.” It turned out that in a cohesive and intensely communicative environment such as the IDF, all it took was one well promoted campaign to effectively shut down the Hamas infiltration efforts. You fooled me once, shame on you, but you won’t fool me again, was the military intelligence’s response.