During the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, hacking activities have increased significantly. In Israel, such a crime unfolded with hackers managing to defraud over a dozen of victims, scalping over NIS 500,000 ($150,000). Israel police arrested 16 suspects in relation to the fraud.

During the Coronavirus crisis, hackers have mainly resorted to phishing attacks. While the technique is old and effective, to spoof victims, they have used links, imitating news about coronavirus, contact tracing and government relief packages. In the case of In Israel's cybercrime, hackers gained access to victims' mobile phone plans and managed to break into bank accounts.

How Did It Happen?

As the country went into a partial lockdown in April, elders stayed home. Hackers mainly targeted the elder population who were not technically sound. Without messaging updates from banks, they had no idea about activities in their accounts. However, it is not totally clear how the hackers managed to get into the phones.

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hackers stole NIS 500,000 from dozens of Israelis Pxfuel

There are two ways, hackers can achieve that. The first method is a phishing attack in which, users will unknowingly download malware that will give remote access to the phone to the hacker. That way, hackers can even bypass Google's two-factor authentication and gain access to the email account and even read text messages.

The second way is using banking trojans like Zeus, Gozi, SpyEye, Citadel malware. As per research by Cybersecurity firm Check Point, such malwares have been used to target victims during the Coronavirus pandemic.

16 Arrested

As police withheld details of the case, perhaps out of concern that other hackers might misuse the technique, the actual method the attackers used is unknown. However, in the past, Iranian hacker groups had used malware to bypass two-factor authentications. Through that, hackers can retrieve or change online banking passwords and transfer amounts.

Cyber Crime
Police arrested 16 suspects with relation to the banking fraud including a couple who managed and organized the entire operation

Israeli police began investigating the case a few months ago after the country's Coastal District Cyber Unit received multiple complaints.

Following a thorough investigation with the help of the National Cyber Center in the Lahav 433 anti-corruption unit, police found several victims throughout the country and arrested 16 suspects in connection with the crime. They learned that the operation was managed and organized by a couple based out of Kiryat Tivon. They also seized computers and storage devices.

"This is a complex affair that has revealed a sophisticated method of fraud, consisting of vile exploitation of the plight of civilians at this time. The police intend to apply the full severity of the law against those involved," Israel Police told Jerusalem Post in a statement.