TEL AVIV — Palestinian terror group Hamas used pictures of young women to lure dozens of Israeli soldiers into online chats that compromised their personal security, the Israel Defence Force (IDF) has admitted.
Militants used stolen pictures to create fake social media profiles to hit on IDF personnel, persuading them to download a messaging app that turned the soldiers' smartphones into an espionage tool.
Hebrew slang and Israeli names were used to make the profiles seem more genuine, according to the IDF, which has produced a training video warning its soldiers how to detect "honey trap" scams in the future.
The IDF said no major military secrets were disclosed, but that Hamas used the stings to gather information about Israeli army maneuvers in the Gaza area.
"We found tens of undercover figures that operated to get classified info from IDF soldiers," it said in an internal presentation made public Wednesday.
"These figures successfully fooled soldiers and led them to speak about confidential issues [and] managed to install viruses in dozens of cell phones."
In the IDF video, an anonymous soldier tells how the scam unfolded.
"She sent me one day a message on Facebook, we spoke a lot, continually for a few days and she told me that she served in the army prison unit," the soldier says.
"Our connection got stronger over time and you tend to trust her more and more, you begin to know her slowly. She told me that we should download an app together so that we can talk. I downloaded it and it opened but didn't work. Suddenly I notice that it is not a woman and that it is Hamas."
In 2001, a 16-year-old Israeli was lured to the occupied West Bank, where he was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen after entering into an online relationship with a Palestinian woman, who posed as an American tourist.
"The ease with which it is possible to set up an internet offensive infrastructure, the culture of sharing information and the insufficient awareness to the security threat online creates vulnerability," the IDF presentation said.