Former Mossad chief says Elector app ‘like Coronavirus’

What happened: Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo sounded the alarm yesterday about the Elector app, whose database of Israeli voters has been breached twice in the past month. The app encourages users to add personal details of their contacts to assist ‘get out the vote’ campaigns and can be accessed by anyone using an Israeli telephone number. It has been heavily utilised by the Likud party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged supporters to download it.

  • Likening the app to the coronavirus, Pardo said it was: “Dangerous to the security of the State of Israel, to the safety of IDF soldiers and commanders and members of the Shin Bet and the Mossad,” adding: “If they know the name of an IDF commander or a member of the Shin Bet or the Mossad, and someone has filled in their phone number, they can see that.” Pardo urged all Israelis to delete the app immediately.
  • The personal information of Israel’s entire voter registry – over six million people – may have been leaked due to the breaches in the app. The information leaked reportedly includes full names, addresses, gender, and identity card numbers of every eligible Israeli voter.
  • Elector allows Likud (and other political parties who use the platform) to send targeted messages to potential voters, especially on election day, and to manage voter and polling databases.
  • A spokesman for Elector called Pardo’s comments “irresponsible” and rejected allegations that the information stored in the app was accessible to Israel’s enemies abroad. The Likud has claimed that the breaches were an orchestrated “criminal” attack against it and the electoral process. Israeli legal and cyber authorities are still investigating.

Context: Leaks from the Elector app, if confirmed, would be one of the most significant cyber breaches in Israel – but it was not the only one being discussed during the election campaign this week. Sordid allegations about Benny Gantz were shared on social media yesterday allegedly originating from his cellphone.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu’s son, Yair, and other prominent supporters highlighted a dubious report that Iran had in its possession a leaked video of Gantz pleasuring himself. Yair Netanyahu had been alluding to the existence of such a video for several days on his social media posts.
  • Benjamin Netanyahu himself hinted at the salacious rumours yesterday during a campaign stop, saying: “I won’t get into the personal life of any one candidate or another. The appropriate question is this: the prime minister has to withstand enormous pressure… A prime minister in Israel can’t be blackmailed by Iran and he can’t be in a position in which someone can pressure him. I think that Gantz ought to be asked what’s there.”
  • Gantz fired back in an angry speech last night, accusing Netanyahu of “poisoning Israel” and of “lying, attacking, dividing, mudslinging, spreading malicious rumours and inciting.” Gantz added: “Netanyahu, you’ve lost it, and you’re unworthy of being prime minister for even a single day longer.”

Looking ahead: In an election campaign that has already seen numerous personal attacks, yesterday’s developments were arguably the lowest point yet.

  • The Elector app leaks are not thought to have damaged the Likud directly but a full investigation of the app and its potential threats to national and personal security has not yet been concluded.
  • In practical terms, the underhand personal attacks on Gantz propagated by the Likud have likely closed the door completely on any future power-sharing agreement between him and Netanyahu after the 2 March election.