Czech counterintelligence helps uncover Hezbollah hacking scheme

Photo: PeteLinforth / Pixabay, CC0

The Czech Security Intelligence Service (BIS) issued a press release on Monday in which it says it cooperated with foreign partners in identifying, analysing and disabling servers in the Czech Republic and the wider world, which Hezbollah was using for cybernetic espionage.

Photo: PeteLinforth / Pixabay,  CC0
A network of Hezbollah hackers used old tricks on social media to hack into mobile devices across the world. Posing as attractive girls on Facebook, they would contact users and start chatting. After steering the conversation to increasingly sensual topics, the profiles would then ask the user to install a ‘more private and secure application‘.

According to the counterintelligence service’s press release, some impassioned users, mostly men, would comply and install the app. Unaware that it gave hackers access to their sensitive information, including contacts, photographs, calls, text messages, GPS data and the option to secretely record the owner via the mobile device.

The hacking attacks through servers placed in the Czech Republic, the wider EU and the US, originated from the middle east. They were aimed at various regions across the world including Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East itself.

The head of the BIS, Michal Koudelka, stated thathis organisation played an important role in identifying and uncovering the system that the hackers used. Furthermore, he stated that intelligence gathered by the agency, played a direct role in the eventual takedown of the Hezbollah hacking network.

Miroslav Mareš, who is professor of international politics at Masaryk University in Brno, says that Czech intelligence has a history of cooperation against Hezbollah threats and can be seen as a European flagship in this sphere.

Miroslav Mareš,  photo: archive of Charles University
“The Czech Republic has traditionally been considered as an ally of Israel and the United States in this field and in the past we have seen many Czech activities against Hezbollah.

“In the previous decade, Czech diplomacy struggled for the addition of this organisation into the so called ‘EU terrorist list’. Furthermore, in 2002, a Hezbollah propaganda website in the Czech language was discovered.

“So the interest in countering Hezbollah may therefore be connected both with the general effort to counter cyberthreats, but also with this specific counterterrorist focus.”

According to professor Mareš, Czech capabilities in the field of countering cyberthreats have been significantly strenghened in the recent past as well.

“The Czech Republic is very active in this field, especially in the past 5-6 years. It established a special department within the secret intelligence service, which cooperates very closely with the Czech National Cyber and Information Security Agency [NÚKIB], another new organisation within the spectrum of the Czech security system.”

Aside from informing on the successful combating of the Hezbollah hacker threat, the Security Information Service also issued general advice on how to stay safe online:

• Do not answer messages and invitations from unkown individuals, especially on social media.

• Do not open links or download software that has been sent to you from untrusted sources.

• Do not ignore system warnings regarding app instalation from untrusted sources.

• Directly visit the official home websites of companies and get your software directly from the source or from official distribution channels.

• To minimalise risk use updated anti-virus software.