Did we spy or didn’t we?

According to the Wall Street Journal, (via the Jerusalem Post) the US has accused Israel of spying on the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, and are furious that Israel is playing nasty with the information it gathered:

Not only did Israel spy on the P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran, but it angered Obama administration officials by using the information gleaned from its espionage efforts to drum up opposition to a nuclear deal among US lawmakers, The Wall Street Journal is reporting on Tuesday.

The administration’s discussions with Iran appear to be nearing an agreement, with Israeli officials resigned to the fact that the sides are about to strike what they call “a bad deal.”

According to the Journal, Israel spied on the talks as part of the Netanyahu administration’s campaign to publicly build a case against the deal.

“It is one thing for the US and Israel to spy on each other,” a senior US official familiar with the details told the newspaper. “It is another thing for Israel to steal US secrets and play them back to US legislators to undermine US diplomacy.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, US spy agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials who were sharing details that the Americans say could only have been learned from the secret negotiations with Iran.

Israel, for its part, denied that it spied on American negotiators, insisting that their efforts were aimed at Iranian officials.

Last month, the Obama administration accused Israeli officials of “selective sharing of information” and “cherry picking” in their public complaints over the Iran negotiations.

Israel for its part vigorously denies any involvement and says that the Accusations are baseless:

A cybersecurity firm with close ties to Russian intelligence said Wednesday it uncovered a cyber-espionage campaign targeting hotels that hosted Iran nuclear negotiations, the details of which are among the most closely held secrets in world diplomacy.

The firm, Kaspersky, said the malware was so sophisticated that it must have been created by a government. Citing former U.S. intelligence officials, The Wall Street Journal attributed the spying to Israel, which opposes the emerging nuclear deal being hammered out by world powers and Iran.

On Thursday morning, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told Army Radio, “All the international reports on Israeli involvement in the matter are baseless. What is much more important is preventing a bad deal. Otherwise, we’ll ultimately find ourselves with an Iranian nuclear umbrella.”

Kaspersky’s cyberspying discoveries are taken seriously by security experts, and the U.S. antivirus company Symantec confirmed Kaspersky’s technical findings Wednesday, though not the source of the campaign.


I’m surprised that the US accepts the word of a Russian-intelligence linked cyper-spying company against the word of the Israelis.

Globes reports that the virus allegedly used for the espionage, the Duqu 2 virus can do more than eavesdrop: it can  access personal information. And Duqu was allegedly used by Israel previously.

“Since Duqu uses root capabilities and exploits vulnerabilities that allow for an elevation of privileges, Duqu can be used to install other code that can keystroke log, record conversations, record video, extract files, track any activity that occurs on the infected Windows PC or laptop. This includes the capturing of user IDs, passwords, and sensitive files.”

Bardin added, “Once the code is installed, most anti-virus software cannot detect or remove this malware. Duqu allows for the complete takeover of the target Windows devices.”

Casaba Security co-founder and Managing Principal Chris Weber told “Business Insider” that the new, updated version of the Duqu virus, Duqu 2.0, “is an extremely advanced malware platform with delivery mechanisms on par with Stuxnet.” (In 2012, it was reported that Israel and the US had planted the Stuxnet worm in the Iran nuclear facility and disrupted its operation.)

Weber added, “Once infected, the Duqu platform offers its operators ability to install either a simple, memory-resident backdoor or a more persistent and fully featured command and control package. After that, the platform allows for leverage into other parts of the network.”

Weber called Duqu 2.0 “bad-ass,” and believes malware to be “the tool of choice for nation-state spying.”

I leave you to draw the necessary conclusions.

In all honesty I really truly hope that we did do it.

However we must not rest on our (alleged) laurels. Israel and the West are not the only ones using cyber-warfare. MEMRI has produced a long detailed report explaining how  encryption techniques are being used by Jihadists like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Here is just an excerpt. I highly recommend you read it all:

Encrypted Messaging With Fighters In Syria Or Iraq, Or Lone Wolf Jihadis In The West – One Click Away

Anyone can now communicate securely via an untraceable throwaway smartphone, purchased online, including on Amazon. Installing an encrypted messaging app such as Kik or another of the apps highlighted in this report takes a few moments, and after that, chatting securely and secretly with an Islamic State (ISIS) fighter in Syria or Iraq, with an ISIS supporter in the West, or with one of the individuals or groups in this report is one click away. The photos below show one such phone with contacts with pro-ISIS Kik accounts; jihadis frequently share their Kik accounts on their Twitter pages.

ISIS Video Details Impact Of Cyber Jihad, Mocks FBI Cyber Activity Against It

ISIS is aware that the FBI is the main U.S. government body that is challenging it in cyberspace. In a March 9, 2015 video in which it acknowledged the important role of its online supporters, ISIS denigrated the FBI efforts, stating, “The FBI itself admitted that it had been defeated, and that is could not stop the supporters of the Islamic State on the Internet.” The video went on to underline that ISIS’s online supporters’ work on the organization’s behalf had considerable benefits for its operations on the ground, and urged them to continue this work, which it said was a form of jihad. The video, titled “Messages to the Media Knights,” featured several ISIS members speaking. The following are excerpts from the video (to view this clip on the MEMRI Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM), click here).

On the other hand the Jihadists’ bravado in boasting about their cyber-power and their carelessness in talking about it online will lead to their undoing. An example of such stupidity was brought to us courtesy of the inimitable Israellycool with their Darwin Award of the Day back in January:

Meet the New Zealand terrorist who was shearing his location with everyone!

kiwi-jihadi-in-al-tabqah-03dec2014-10dec2014-geotrack-1-ibraboIt’s a rookie social media mistake and one that intelligence and law enforcement agencies pray for when tracking criminals. This week one of New Zealand’s well known jihadists, Mark Taylor (Twitter aka: Kiwi Jihadi or @M_Taylor_Kiwi), removed 45 tweets after he discovered that he was broadcasting his twitter location to every intelligence agency (and others) keeping tabs on him. Unfortunately for him we captured all of them prior to him removing the tweets and will discuss the value of the intelligence they contained.


Taylor eager for the fame of being a violent jihadist took to twitter to get attention for his exploits. His statements and twitter missteps have solidified his involvement with ISIS and will provide the evidence should he ever try to return to New Zealand. His ignorance and the ignorance of others has been an advantage to intelligence agencies around the world looking to protect their nations and track the progress of ISIS. Even examining his most recent twitter photo update, Taylor shows again his lack of understanding of technology and intelligence as he broadcast out the facial image of another fighter captured in the background of his photo.

May all our enemies be so stupid. Meanwhile let’s hope that despite all the denials Israel really is keeping a close eye on the desperately bad US-Iran nuclear deal, and that Israel really is letting its allies know all about what they discovered, no matter how angry the US becomes. American anger is a small price to pay for our survival.

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6 Responses to Did we spy or didn’t we?

  1. cba says:

    “US spy agencies intercepted communications between Israeli officials who were sharing details that the Americans say could only have been learned from the secret negotiations with Iran.”

    In other words, US spied on Israeli officials and are furious that it looks like Israel spied on US officials.

    • anneinpt says:

      Quite. That’s a very succinct precis of my entire post. And it’s not the first time either that the Americans have discovered Israeli spying by spying on the Israelis.

      Of course they must know that all allies spy on each other as much as they spy on their enemies. It’s just that the American administration can’t stand it that Israel is so strongly objecting to their bloody nuclear deal, or should I call it “nuclear capitulation”. We’re getting in the way of Obama’s legacy and he can’t forgive us for it.

  2. ShimonZ says:

    May all our enemies be so stupid… but it’s enough if they’re even a little less intelligent than someone who cares.

  3. Reality says:

    Only the Americans would dictate to us that they &only they are allowed to spy on Israel,not the other way around!I thought we were chutzpadik! I hope it was Israel who spied,but usually they aren’t discovered,which leads me to think that either it wasn’t Israel,or that they “wanted “to be discovered .

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