Shalom Life | September 20, 2014

Hackers Use Facebook to Spy on Americans, Israelis

A new report from American security group iSIGHT Partners suggests that Iranian hackers are using fake social media profiles to spy on us

By: Daniel Koren

Published: May 29th, 2014 in Business » World

iSIGHT Partners, an American-based security company, revealed today that a group of hackers, which they argue are most likely from Iran, have been using fake social media profiles - whether on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, etc. - to retrieve data from British, American and Israeli corporations and government agencies.

Approximately more than 2,000 executives and officials have fallen prey to this 'Newscaster' scam which is run by a complex network of 'friends', who were able to conduct “a coordinated, long-term cyber espionage campaign,” says the report.

Users were deceived by the network of friends to provide them with personal information, such as passwords or logins, which subsequently lead to their data being hacked into by malware, reports iSIGHT. Though there is no direct evidence that Iranians are behind the scam, iSIGHT suggests that there is much circumstantial evidence that points towards them.

iSIGHT details that the 'Newscaster' scam has been going on since at least 2011. The hackers would create fake personalities on whichever social media platform was available to them, many of the times creating personas that were strongly supportive of Israel and Israeli policies.

iSIGHT says among the 2,000 victims of the scam are congressional aides, journalists, high-ranking politicians, and more.

While these kind of 'phishing' scams occur online all the time, iSIGHT suggests that this was at a higher level of sophistication, indicating that the hackers belong to a larger, fully-operational organization.

Because the main target was often Israelis, whether in their native land or in the UK and US, and supporters of Israelis, and that the the subject was focused heavily on Israeli security and defense, iSIGHT deemed that Iran is most likely the perpetrator.

They did, however, also add that “We have no information implicating the ultimate sponsor. In the past we’ve seen cyber espionage operations carried out by government organizations, corporate intermediaries, and other third parties.”

The one piece of evidence that does link Iran to the scam is that the malware link, Newsonair.org, was registered to a company based out of Tehran.

iSIGHT is recommending to all organizations not to worry, but to be 'vigilant.'

"Never provide login credentials with any site or person who contacts to you (rather than you contacting it), use strong passwords and regularly change them," they said.

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