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Israel charges Islamic Jihad hacker for spying on IDF drones

Palestinian suspect allegedly used computer skills to gain access to overhead footage, watch troop movements and track planes at Ben-Gurion Airport

Majd Ouida, a 22-year-old Gazan who Israel has indicted for hacking into IDF drone feeds, traffic cameras and other Israeli computer systems, in a Beersheba court on March 23, 2016. (Screen capture: Channel 10)
Majd Ouida, a 22-year-old Gazan who Israel has indicted for hacking into IDF drone feeds, traffic cameras and other Israeli computer systems, in a Beersheba court on March 23, 2016. (Screen capture: Channel 10)

The Israel Police and Shin Bet security service arrested a Gaza resident suspected of hacking into the feeds from Air Force drones and collecting information on troop movements and civilian flights for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, police said Wednesday.

A police statement named the suspect as Majd Ouida, 22, describing him as an “electronics engineer” from the Gaza Strip.

Ouida, who also held the position of chairman of the “Palestinian talents society,” was arrested on February 23 while en route to a meeting with young candidates on a television singing contest, the statement said but did not detail where or how he was arrested.

A police spokesperson for the Israel Police clarified that Ouida was not arrested inside the Gaza Strip, implying he was en route from the coastal enclave to the West Bank when security forces scooped him up.

According to the indictment, he was recruited by Islamic Jihad in 2011 while working as a radio broadcaster and was made their “computer administrator.”

“He carried out tasks that he received from his handlers, including coding a computer program that enabled the viewing of road cameras, hacking into the computers of the Hamas interior ministry in Gaza, and more,” police said.

According to the indictment filed against the suspect, he was asked by the Islamic Jihad in 2012 to hack into the IDF’s network of drones in operation above the Gaza Strip.

He purchased the requisite equipment from dealers in the United States and created a computer program that could intercept the broadcast feed, the prosecutor claimed.

An Israeli Air Force "Ethan" drone (Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90)
An Israeli Air Force “Ethan” drone (Yossi Zeliger/FLASH90)

His first two attempts at intercepting the feed failed, according to the indictment, but on his third try he was successful, allowing his handlers to see some of the footage captured by the IDF drone cameras.

“While watching the broadcasts, the defendant realized the drone was collecting intelligence on terrorist operatives working on launching and storing missiles in the Gaza Strip,” according to the indictment.

Ouida also succeeded in accessing footage from highway cameras inside Israel, obtaining for his organization information on the movement of Israeli security forces and civilians during wars in the Strip and rocket strikes, the indictment said.

Further, the man allegedly developed an application that compiled information on the movement of planes at Israel’s Ben Gurion international airport, as well as gaining access to passenger manifestos, plane weights and makes, and takeoff and landing times.

Ouida faces a litany of charges for his actions, including espionage, conspiracy to commit a crime, computer hacking and transferring information to an enemy with the intent to harm national security.

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