Israel says Hamas tried to snare soldiers in World Cup cyber trap

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Israel’s military accused the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas on Tuesday of trying to hack the mobile phones of Israeli soldiers through a malicious World Cup score-tracking app and two bogus dating apps.

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip and has fought several wars with Israel, declined comment.

The three Android apps, which have since been removed from the Google Play Store, were designed to infect troops’ phones with data-stealing malware and turn on cameras and microphones for live spying, two Israeli military security officers said.

A Google Israel spokeswoman did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment. The officers, at a briefing for foreign reporters, declined to say how Israel had determined Hamas was allegedly responsible.

One of the apps, “Golden Cup”, was set up last month as the World Cup soccer championship kicked off in Russia, the Israeli officers said. “It was actually a very good one, giving you the game results,” said one of the officers, who under military secrecy rules requested anonymity.

The officers said Hamas operatives, using false identities, contacted soldiers on social media and encouraged them to download the apps to their private smart phones.

Fewer than 100 soldiers did so, and were located either by self-reporting or after military security analysts tracked them down, the officers said. “We know of no damage that was done,” one of the officers said.

The military reported a similar alleged Hamas plot in January 2017, saying cellphones belonging to dozens of soldiers were hacked by militants pretending to be attractive young women.

Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Jeffrey Heller/Mark Heinrich