Recent developments suggest Israeli police paying private hackers to spy on citizens. According to Calcalist, an Israeli citizen and hacker named Elishay Tubul was asked to remotely seize control of the security cameras of a business center in Israel. The guy is no policeman and has no training in that field either and this was also not a one-off incident.
Israel Police’s SIGINT unit has at least three external hackers who are paid to assist them in collecting intelligence and cracking criminal cases. While it is the same unit that operates NSO’s Pegasus spyware, the hackers are regular citizens who are exposed to top-secret information without any security clearance required to deal in such situations. They also need to undergo lie detector tests in order to prevent possible misuse of the information they were exposed to.
Calcalist further revealed many hackers operate in an illegal manner, where they break into private WiFi networks, download recordings from security cameras belonging to private companies, hack into insurance files, as well as phones that police are not able to crack with NSO’s Pegasus. All this takes place without any judicial intervention and they are concealed as confidential, while the hackers are being paid after providing receipts for their “advisory” services.
In the case of Tubul who is a 31-year-old migrant from France and has served in the IDF as a lone soldier. Tubul was recruited by the police for his computer skills at the age of 24, a year after he was discharged from the military.
Tubul was targeted by the police after he was in a financial mess, in spite of him being tangled in a legal matter relating to alleged illegal activity relating to his digital expertise. Earlier in 2015, Tubul was sued by Japanese conglomerate Sony for NIS 100,000 (approximately $32,000) for setting up a website named PS3PRIZE in which he offered hacks into Sony’s Playstation console for NIS 70 ($22). He was found guilty and was ordered by the Jerusalem District Court judge Yigal Marzel to pay Sony NIS 15,000 ($4,800) in compensation.
Later Commander Yosef Kahlon, who headed the technology department in the SIGINT unit recruited him to the police. Police used his services regularly and he was paid on an hourly basis. earning as much as NIS 50,000 ($16,000) in some months.
The police did not care to know how Tubul acquired the sensitive intelligence information. He was also given access to the SIGINT unit’s offices in Jerusalem, exposing top-secret information even though he is just a citizen who hasn’t been trained as a policeman.
In response to the report, the Israel Police said, “The claims included in your request are untrue. Israel Police acts according to the authority granted to it by law and when necessary according to court orders and within the rules and regulations set by the responsible bodies. The police’s activity in this sector is under constant supervision and inspection of the Attorney General of Israel and additional external legal entities. Naturally, the police don’t intend to comment on the tools they use. Nevertheless, we will continue to act in a determined manner with all the means at our disposal, in the physical and online spaces, to fight crime in general, and organized crime in particular, to protect the safety and property of the public.”
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