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Telegram channel leaks Mossad chief’s personal photos, documents

Video shows flight tickets, ID, tax papers, imagery said to be of David Barnea’s home; unconfirmed reports claim Iran behind cyber attack; Israel says materials ‘old’

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Photos of Mossad chief David Barnea are seen in a video published on an anonymous Telegram channel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)
Photos of Mossad chief David Barnea are seen in a video published on an anonymous Telegram channel, on March 16, 2022. (Screenshot)

An anonymous Telegram channel published a video on Wednesday that included personal photos and documents seemingly belonging to Mossad chief David Barnea.

The video published on the “Open Hands” channel — which was created on Tuesday — alleged the information it had obtained was from a lengthy intelligence operation conducted against Barnea, which began in 2014.

“We’ve got a small gift for the Mossad; ‘With LOVE for David’. Happy Purim,” a post on the channel read, referring to the Jewish holiday that begins Wednesday night.

The video — with translations in English, Hebrew, and Arabic — showed several personal photos, flight tickets under Barnea’s name, his ID card, tax documents addressed to his wife, and satellite imagery of what it claimed to be his private home in the central city of Hod Hasharon.

A clip of Barnea making silly faces, apparently during a private video chat, is also seen in the video.

The group claimed it began its surveillance operation against Barnea by breaking into the database of the city’s local library. It was not immediately clear this information was used to gather the data on Barnea.

The channel said more material on the Mossad chief would be released soon.

The Prime Minister’s Office stated on behalf of the Mossad that Barnea’s phone was not hacked and the “materials in question are old,” without elaborating further.

Open Hands did not say where the group was from, but some Hebrew-language media reports were quick to point the finger at Iran. Nour News, a website linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, also published details of the leak.

It was not the first time alleged Iranian hackers have published stolen personal information on targets.

An Iranian-linked hacking group, Black Shadow, targeted an Israeli hosting company last year, temporarily shutting down a number of websites and stealing user data from “Atraf,” an Israeli LGBT dating site. It later published some of the data.

Black Shadow also stole a vast trove of information from Israeli insurance company Shirbit in 2020, and then sold it on the dark web when the firm refused to pay a ransom.

Israel and Iran have for years been involved in a largely quiet cyberwar, which occasionally bubbles to the surface.

On Monday evening, Israeli government websites were downed for over an hour due to a major cyberattack, which has also been ostensibly tied to Iran by media reports.

Israeli officials have previously accused Iran of attempting to hack Israel’s water system in 2020.

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