Former MK says Iran stole specs of Israeli submarines in hack

Erel Margalit notes German shipyard that is building vessels for Israel was owned by family of Lebanon’s former defense minister

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A general view of the headquarters of German heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp AG in Essen, Germany, on December 11, 2012. (AFP/ Patrik Stollarz/File)
A general view of the headquarters of German heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp AG in Essen, Germany, on December 11, 2012. (AFP/ Patrik Stollarz/File)

A former Knesset member claimed Wednesday that blueprints for submarines that were being built for the Israeli military were stolen in a cyberattack on a German shipyard.

In December 2016, heavy industry giant ThyssenKrupp said it fell victim to a hacking attack in which the perpetrators sought to steal company secrets, but there was no indication at the time that the plans for the Israeli submarines had been taken.

“When Israel is ordering strategic submarines from Germany, a hacker… gets into ThyssenkKrupp and is able to steal the secrets and blueprints of the submarines that were developed in Germany for Israeli use,” high-tech entrepreneur Erel Margalit, a former MK, said at a cybersecurity conference in Tel Aviv.

Margalit noted that the shipyard in Kiel, Germany, that is building the ships for the Israel Navy was owned by the family of Samir Moqbel, who was Lebanon’s defense minister.

“We know that the boats, the Corvettes that Israel is buying to protect… its waters… are bought from a shipyard that is owned by a Lebanese family, one of which was the Lebanese defense minister, who has intimate dealings with Iran,” he said. “And so you are asking yourself whether the new blueprint of Israel’s boats is in the hands of Iran.”

In announcing the attack in 2016, a ThyssenKrupp spokesman said hackers believed to be from Southeast Asia were trying to obtain “technological know-how and research results” from the steel conglomerate. He said that the attack was over and had been repelled.

ThyssenKrupp also made headlines in Israel after it was revealed that the Iran Foreign Investment Company held a 4.5 percent stake in the Germany conglomerate.

At the Tel Aviv conference, Margalit also cautioned that “while the world is trying to delay and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Tehran has already become a cyberpower, with attacks against Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia and others.”

In any future confrontation with Iran’s Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, he said, Israel will have to contend with Iranian capabilities “that we have not yet encountered in the cyber arena, especially in light of the lack of protection for civilian infrastructure in Israel.”

Last year, Margalit, who was an MK for the opposition Zionist Union faction at the time, petitioned the High Court of Justice to demand an investigation of reports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may have been involved in suspected shady dealings with ThyssenKrupp.

An ongoing Israel police investigation, known as Case 3000, has focused on suspicions that state officials were bribed to influence a decision to purchase four patrol boats and three Dolphin-class submarines, at a total cost of 2 billion euros (NIS 8.4 billion), from ThyssenKrupp, despite opposition to the deal from the Defense Ministry.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aboard the new submarine ‘Rahav’ at the Israeli navy base in Haifa, on January 12, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

On Friday, Hadashot TV news reported that Netanyahu would be asked to give testimony in the coming weeks, adding that he will be questioned generally and then, later, possibly as a suspect.

Police suspect that Yitzchak Molcho, Netanyahu’s chief negotiator and personal envoy for over a decade, tried to push the submarine deal during his diplomatic trips abroad, while Shimron, Molcho’s legal partner, sought to promote the interests of the German shipbuilders within Israel.

Shimron has already been questioned several times as part of the investigation by Lahav 433, the police anti-corruption unit. In addition to his work with Netanyahu, he served as a lawyer for Ganor, who was ThyssenKrupp’s local representative and turned state witness in July. He is considered a key suspect in the case.

According to a report Tuesday in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, Ganor told investigators that he had hired Shimron because of his ties to senior government officials, especially Netanyahu. He said Shimron had told him he had involved Netanyahu in the affair.

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