United States Air Force monitoring cyber warfare. (Photo: USAF) United States Air Force monitoring cyber warfare. (Photo: USAF)
Iranian hackers

Iranian hackers created false social networking accounts and a fake news website to spy on the United States and Israel, among other nations, cyber-intelligence firm ISight Partners said on Thursday.

In what it terms an “unprecedented, three-year cyber espionage campaign,” Reuters reports that Iranian hackers created fake social networking and news sites in order to spy on Western countries, including Israel and the U.S., according to Dallas, Texas-based cyber-intelligence firm ISight Partners.

Iranian hackers

President Shimon Peres visited the Ben Gurion University labs, where he witnessed new cyber developments in a special visit to Beer Sheva this month. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

“ISight Partners, which uncovered the operation, said the hackers’ targets include a four-star US Navy admiral, US lawmakers and ambassadors, members of the US-Israeli lobby, and personnel from Britain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” the report says.

“The firm declined to identify the victims and said it could not say what data had been stolen by the hackers, who were seeking credentials to access government and corporate networks, as well as infect machines with malicious software.”

Dubbed “Newscaster” by ISight, the operation created six personas appearing to work for a fake site called NewsOnAir.org, which used content from respected media sources, the article continues. Another eight personas claimed to be affiliated with defense contractors and organizations.

Beware: Iranian Hackers Find Victims through Friends and Colleagues

The Iranian hackers first established ties with victims’ friends, colleagues and other online connections, the EWN report explains.

Iranian hackers

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the First International Cyber Conference in Tel Aviv earlier this year. (Photo: Kobi Gideon/Flash 90)

“The hackers would initially send the targets content that was not malicious, such as links to news articles on NewsOnAir.org, in a bid to establish trust. Then they would send links that infected PCs with malicious software, or direct targets to web portals that ask for network log-in credentials, iSight said.”

“Facebook Inc. spokesman Jay Nancarrow said his company had discovered the hacking group while investigating suspicious friend requests and other activity on its website,” the report continues.

“LinkedIn spokesman Doug Madey said the site was investigating the report, though none of the 14 fake profiles uncovered by iSight were currently active.”

The operation had been ongoing for at least three years.

“If it’s been going on for so long, clearly they have had success,” iSight Executive Vice President Tiffany Jones told Reuters.

On his recent trip to Japan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussing security and common threats, acknowledged that cyber security “is one area that transcends everything and affects everything.”

Written by: United with Israel Staff