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November 18, 2021 3:52 pm

Israeli Defense Minister’s House Cleaner Charged With Espionage for Iran-Linked Hacker Group

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avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 27, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo/Pool via REUTERS

An Israeli ex-bank robber who was employed as a cleaner and handyman in Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s private home, has been charged with espionage after allegedly attempting to sell information to Iranian-linked hackers.

Omri Goren was arrested earlier this month by the Israeli Security Agency (ISA) — also known as the Shin Bet — and the Israeli police just days after it was found that he allegedly used a social network to contact an Iran-linked hacking group. The suspect has been working in Gantz’s home for about two years despite his criminal record.

Goren has in the past been convicted five times for a number of offenses, including bank robbery, theft and burglary, according to Israeli media reports. He has served four prison sentences, the last of which was for four years.

According to the Shin Bet investigation, Goren offered his spy services to the Iran-linked hacking group noting that he had direct access to Gantz’s home. Goren is understood to have taken photographs of several items in various places around the minister’s home, including one of his computer, which he sent to the Iran-linked group to support his intentions.

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The 37-year-old Israeli citizen was arrested as he was planning to assist the Iran-linked hacking group with installing a malware program on Gantz’s computer. According to the indictment filing, Goren used the Telegram service to contract the Iran-affiliated hacking group Black Shadow — the same entity that last month carried out cyberattacks on Israeli civilian websites.

“It should be emphasized that given the measures and procedures used to secure information at the minister’s home, Goren was never exposed to classified materials and no such material was transferred to the agents with whom he was in contact,” the Shin Bet said in a statement. “The rapid counter-operation by ISA thwarted the intention of the accused which could have harmed the security of the state.”

Following the findings of the investigation, a Central District state attorney filed an indictment against Goren on charges of espionage in the Lod District Court.

In light of the incident, the security agency said, it would launch “investigation regarding the background check in order to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of such incidents.”

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