Middle East

Israeli soldiers 'caught in Hamas online honey trap'

Screengrab of presentation by Israeli military showing what it says is a conversation between a Hamas member posing as a woman and an Israeli soldier Image copyright IDF
Image caption The Israeli military published conversations between the scammers and soldiers

Israel's military says it has uncovered a scam by Hamas militants to spy on its soldiers by hacking their mobile phones after posing as women on social media.

Members of the Palestinian group found the soldiers online, then tried to strike up a friendship using the fake identities, an officer told reporters.

Dozens of soldiers were persuaded to install an application that controlled their phone cameras and microphones.

However, the officer said Hamas was not able to uncover any major secrets.

Most of the soldiers were low-ranking, he added, and the scammers were interested in information about Israeli army manoeuvres, forces and weaponry around the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.

The officer, whose name was not given, said the photos used in the scheme belonged to real women, whose pictures and personal details were stolen from their social media profiles.

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Image copyright IDF
Image caption The soldiers were sent a link to download a video chat app that took control of their phone

A presentation he gave to reporters on Wednesday included some of the photos and flirtatious messages sent to the soldiers.

"Just a second, I'll send you a photo, my dear," wrote a scammer in one exchange.

"OK. Ha-ha," the soldier replied, before a photo of a blonde woman appeared.

The scammer then suggested they both download "a simple app that lets us have a video chat". In reality, it gave the scammer control of the soldier's smartphone.

The Israeli military's information security unit uncovered the scam after getting complaints from soldiers that suspicious women were getting them to download applications and then going silent.

"It had potential for great damage," the officer was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "Until now, the damage was minimal. But we wanted to prevent it from happening."

Hamas has so far not commented on the allegations.