Iran hackers reportedly tried to phish Israeli nuclear scientists

Emails sent to Israeli researchers contained links to news stories from a fake British media outlet, TV report says

Illustrative image of a hacker at work (Pixabay)
Illustrative image of a hacker at work (Pixabay)

Iranian hackers reportedly targeted Israeli nuclear scientists with phishing scams in a effort to gain access to sensitive material.

According to a Hadashot TV news report on Tuesday, Israeli scientists received emails containing dubious links to news stories from a fake news outlet called the British News Agency.

The TV report did not indicate whether any of the phishing attempts were successful or when they took place.

Erel Margalit, an former Zionist Union MK and high-tech entrepreneur, said the incident should be a warning to the world that Iranian hacking attempts must be taken seriously.

Last month, the Israel-based ClearSky Cybersecurity said Iranian hackers were sending links from the fake British News Agency to targets across the world in an effort to obtain information about political dissidents living in Iran.

Zionist Union MK Erel Margalit attends a Finance Committee meeting at the Knesset on January 11, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

According to ClearSky, the Iranian hackers behind that attempt were called Charming Kitten, and their cyber espionage activities were state-sanctioned.

The hackers focused on academic researchers, human rights activists, media personalities, and political advisers mostly from Iran, Israel, the US and UK.

Among the Israeli figures known to have been targeted were Iran researcher Tamar Eilam Gindin from the Shalom Center, Kan radio news editor Eran Cicurel, and movie producer Alon Gur Arye, according to Hebrew-language media reports at the time.

ClearSky also said it had found connections between Charming Kitten and Behzad Mesri, an Iranian hacker indicted by the FBI for hacking HBO and then leaking episodes of the “Game of Thrones” series. The FBI said Mesri is a member of another Iran-based hacking group sometimes known as Turk Black Hat, which has targeted hundreds of websites in the United States and around the world.

Earlier on Tuesday, the former director of the CIA, Gen David Petraeus, told a Tel Aviv conference that US-Israeli collaboration on cybersecurity has reached new heights.

“According to various foreign publications, our cooperation has harmed significantly Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at the conference, hinting at the reported collaboration between the two nations in planting the malicious computer worm Stuxnet that damaged Iran’s nuclear program and was uncovered in 2010.

He said he could not confirm or deny those reports.

Shoshanna Solomon, Stuart Winer contributed to this report.

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