This is Elianna Amer from Ashkelon, Israel. She laughs at your jokes. She really seems to like talking to you. She even sent you a cute picture of her at the beach. Would you video chat with her?
Hamas is hoping that you would, and that you and Elianna will keep talking. After all, she wants to get to know you – and there’s a cool new app that she wants to use to do it. “Elianna” – and the app she’s trying to get you to download – is Hamas’s newest weapon.
Hamas, the radical Islamist terror group, has also been known in the past to use social media to promote terror and incite violence. But the IDF’s Informations Security Unit of the Intelligence Directorate has exposed a new way that Hamas is using the internet to their advantage: the human connection.
Hamas operatives are making fake profiles and trying to persuade IDF soldiers to befriend them. If they can make this connection work, the Hamas operative tries to convince the soldiers to download a virus that turns their phones into the terror group’s own personal information source.
How it works
Hamas has opened dozens of fake profiles like Elianna Amer’s, each with their own names and pictures, that they find through stealing the identities of unsuspecting civilians. They find social media accounts of soldiers by browsing through selfies, tags, and posts, and target them. This time, their weapon isn’t a bomb, gun, or vehicle. It’s a simple friend request.
After some back and forth, the operative sends him a few pictures, mirror shots and beach portraits, to prove that she’s real, and asks him if he’d like to video chat, but all the apps he has won’t work for her – she needs him to download another one. She sends him a link to an app store called “apkpk.” He downloads the app she requested.
The app isn’t working, not for the soldier, at least. He tries to tell the pretty girl on the other end, but she won’t respond.
This “video chatting” app is actually a virus. It can turn a mobile device into an open book – leaving contacts, location, apps, pictures, and files accessible to Hamas. What’s more, it can stream video from the camera and audio from the microphone.
Turning off the GPS on your phone when it’s not in use can make yourself harder to track, and only clicking links from people you trust can help, too. If anything looks fishy – like an email with an uncharacteristic subject line and an attachment you’re not expecting to receive – don’t download or click it. Don’t accept friend requests on social media from people you haven’t met, and don’t download any apps from sources you’re unfamiliar with.
Though some IDF soldiers’ phones were infected with the virus before it was found, the Intelligence Directorate has worked, is continuing to work, to combat this new threat and identify these fake profiles before they can target any more soldiers.
Featured image photo credit: Reuters