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Israel-Iran cyber warfare heats up, exploiting Israeli internal divide

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has used a false news campaign generated by a foreign state — probably Iran — to lambast anti-government protesters.
Israel-Iran cyber warfare has intensified in the last few years. Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images
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TEL AVIV – Foreign states and groups, primarily Iran, have been conducting for the past few years cyber campaigns designed to destabilize Israel and its institutions, with another such offensive exposed on Saturday. The latest campaign involved thousands of fake posts on Instagram revealing personal details of Israeli police officers and was disguised as an attack staged by Israel's anti-government protesters.

One of the pro-democracy activists used to expose the police officers was Nitzan Weisberg, who suddenly recognized her picture on a profile disseminating information that she had not posted. The Fake Reporter, an Israeli watchdog that researches and exposes false information, was quick to tweet an alert about the scam. Still, the impact of the warning was limited. 

The affair made headlines only after Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir took the bait. Ben-Gvir ignored the warnings and instead treated the posts as authentic, accusing the protest movement of posting photos of police officers, along with their personal phone numbers, in order to intimidate them and prevent them from carrying out their duties. 

Israel and Iran are clearly in an undeclared state of war, but paradoxically, the interests of some groups on the opposing sides sometimes seem to overlap. As such, Ben-Gvir played into the hands of the false news campaign, fighting back as if these posts were real news and facts.

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