Photo by TPS on 25 January, 2023

Fake Iranian Social Media Accounts Recruited Israelis For Espionage

Public By TPS • 15 January, 2024

Jerusalem, 15 January, 2024 (TPS) -- The Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) on Monday revealed more details about an investigation initially publicized last month into Iranian efforts via social media networks to recruit Israeli citizens online to carry out terrorist attacks and other missions.

New information from the probe has exposed Telegram and Instagram channels operated by Iran, some reaching thousands of followers, set up to gather personal records of Israelis and get them to photograph the residential addresses of members of the security establishment.

“The Iranian security agencies make cynical and manipulative use of online platforms and promote activities against families of [Gaza] abductees. They initiate gatherings near the families’ homes, send bouquets of flowers and messages to their homes,” the Shin Bet said, in reference to the fake social media platforms promoting campaigns to pressure the government to free terrorists in exchange for the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

These social media channels encourage activities such as hanging signs composed by the Iranians, photographing demonstrators and filling out surveys in which the users are asked to fill out personal information, “all for the purpose of gathering a lot of information about Israeli citizens and using them in a way to carry out security missions.”

These fake platforms were exposed thanks to “advanced tools and capabilities in monitoring the online space, and thanks to the increased vigilance of Israeli citizens to fake websites and hostile platforms, following the latest publications in the media,” the Shin Bet said.

Iranian Telegram and Instagram platforms to watch out for include Tears of War, BringHomeNow, Kan +, Agrof, Powerless, Israel the Second and The Avengers.

“The General Security Service [the literal translation for the name of the Shin Bet], in cooperation with the other security agencies, is taking active steps to monitor and thwart any activity that endangers the security of the State of Israel and its citizens in order to bring exposure and damage to Iranian efforts to carry out terrorist activities within Israel’s territory,” the agency said.

The Shin Bet in December reported that the investigation revealed attempts to recruit Israeli citizens via WhatsApp, Facebook, X and other online networks.

Eventually, the Israelis would be asked to perform seemingly innocent tasks that benefitted Iranian intelligence, such as taking photos of a specific location, providing information about a street address, or acting against the families of hostages. In one case, an Israeli was offered €70,000 (nearly $77,000) to commit a murder.

In July, Israel exposed an Iranian phishing campaign aimed at gathering information about Israeli policies and citizens via LinkedIn. The Iranian campaign primarily targeted Israeli civil servants and researchers at research institutes.