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Cyber authority warns Israelis of widely distributed WhatsApp message hack

Apparent phishing attempt, via a link to join a group on the messaging app, said to have originated from several countries

This screenshot shows the apparent malicious message, widely disturbed on the WhatsApp messaging platform, December 29, 2021. (Screenshot: Channel 12)
This screenshot shows the apparent malicious message, widely disturbed on the WhatsApp messaging platform, December 29, 2021. (Screenshot: Channel 12)

The National Cyber Directorate warned Israelis on Wednesday of a widely distributed WhatsApp message that appeared to be a phishing attempt.

The messages included a link to join a group on the messaging app that claimed to offer stock market tips. Several messages with similar content — in both English and Hebrew — all contained a link to join the group, Channel 12 news reported.

The network said that according to the cyber authority, the malicious messages originated from several countries and led to a request for personal details.

It was not clear how many Israelis had fallen for the attack, or the extent of damage caused.

It was also not yet clear whether the deception was tied to an attempt to extract financial details or infect users with Trojan horses or if it had some other goal.

The cyber authority advised WhatsApp users not to click on any such unknown links.

In October, the cyber directorate issued a general warning to Israeli businesses to be aware of potential cyberattacks, as the country faced an uptick in hacking attempts.

Attacks can be reported directly to the directorate by dialing 119.

Earlier this month, Israeli cybersecurity giant Check Point said that a hacking group identified with the Iranian regime was using a computer vulnerability called one of the worst ever seen to attack Israeli targets.

Iran and Israel have been engaged in a “shadow war,” including several reported attacks on Israeli and Iranian ships that the two have blamed on each other, as well as cyberattacks.

Also this month, Israel led a 10-country, 10-day-long simulation of a major cyberattack on the world’s financial system by “sophisticated” players, with the goal of minimizing the damage to banks and financial markets.

Israeli officials said international cooperation was the only way to counter the threat of major cyberattacks.

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