Blue and White party leader and former IDF Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz’s mobile phone was hacked by Iranian intelligence according to a report on Israel’s Channel 12 news.
Israel’s Shin Bet security service told Gantz five weeks ago that his phone had been compromised, shortly after he launched his political campaign.
While no classified information is believed to be on the phone, personal information and text messages may have been collected in order to find information that could be used against him. Shin Bet officials told Gantz he could “proceed according to his own judgement”.
Following the report, Gantz’s Blue and White party said: “We don’t comment on issues that are at the heart of state security. It is important to emphasise that this incident happened four years after Gantz finished his tenure as chief of staff, [a fact] that raises many questions regarding the timing of the report’s publication.”
Gantz is the closest challenger to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; his Blue and White party is leading in the polls and predicted to win 34 seats but Netanyahu’s Likud party is predicted to be better placed to form a coalition Government.
The report about Gantz’s phone comes after a Kan News report about the Israeli cyber directorate’s preparations for expected hacking attacks on or near the 9 April elections. Israel Radio reported on Sunday that officials fear hackers could attempt to skew poll results or leak politically compromising information ahead of the vote. Officials have met with representative of polling companies and the major political parties in an effort to help them prevent cyber-attacks on their computer systems.
In January, the head of the Shin Bet, Nadav Argaman, warned about interference in the election. Speaking at a conference at Tel Aviv University, Argaman said: “I don’t know for what side they will be taking action. At this point I can’t identify their political interest — but it will interfere, and I know what I’m talking about.” He was widely believed to be talking about Russia and added that that same country: “Will attempt to do so by means of cyber technology — hackers, etc.”