Iranian websites use fake Israeli contact data to lure spies, researchers claim

Computer hackingA NUMBER OF WEBSITES sponsored through Google Ads, which seek to hire Iran and Hezbollah experts for “research and consultancies” in Israel, are part of an Iranian counterintelligence program, according to observers. The investigative news website Daily Beast said on Monday it discovered at least 16 such websites, all of which appear to employ the same language, visuals, as well as telephone numbers with Israeli area codes.

The websites’ stated purpose is to employ individuals with inside knowledge of Iranian intelligence and security, as well as individuals with a background in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The prospective employers claim to be Israeli “consultancy” firms, with names such as “VIP Human Solutions”. The latter describes itself as a “VIP center for recruitment of the most distinguished in the military and security services of Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon”, according to the Daily Beast.

The websites feature Israeli flag visuals, and claim to be associated with recognizable think-tanks and media organizations, including the Gatestone Institute, the Begin-Sadat Center, the Jerusalem Post and Business Insider. However, these purported connections appear to be fictitious and to be designed to give those websites an air of legitimacy. In reality they appear to be hosted by an obscure Bulgarian web hosting company. At times they disappear, but then reappear under a different title and domain name. The oldest among them has been active for just over four years.

The Daily Beast cites a number of Iran observers, as well as intelligence insiders in the United States and elsewhere, who claim that the websites are part of a sting operation by Iranian counterintelligence. They share a number of “behavioral similarities” to prior phishing campaigns perpetrated by hacker groups with documented links to Iranian intelligence agencies, according to the Daily Beast. The purpose of the websites is to lure unsuspecting Iranian and Lebanese nationals who aspire to provide information to Israel in exchange for money, according to the report.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 25 January 2022 | Permalink

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