Trump Team Leaks About Israel's Hack Of Kaspersky Lab Could Further ���Damage��� Ties, Experts Warn
It was revealed this week that Israeli spies were watching the Russian spies who were watching some other spies: Americans. That information came from U.S. government officials who leaked details about the Israeli spies watching the spies who were spying on their spies. Cyber experts say the continued sensitive leaks about Israeli operations and intelligence threatens to damage two things: U.S.-Israeli cooperation, and Israel’s image in the world.
An Israeli security agency hacked into Kaspersky Lab—a Russian cybersecurity company whose antivirus software is used by hundreds of millions of people—in 2015 to discover that Russian hackers with links to the Kremlin scoured computers worldwide for sensitive information about U.S. intelligence programmes, The New York Times reported.
American intelligence officials have long-feared that Kaspersky is not just any security company but one with nefarious connections, deep in Moscow’s intelligence elite. Kaspersky himself spent time at a Russian intelligence institute. But federal agencies continued to use the company’s software.
The breach was so serious that the hackers were able to steal classified materials from a National Security Agency contractor who was using Kaspersky Lab software on his home computer.
The Israelis informed their historic ally, the U.S., about the intrusion. It led to Washington wiping Capitol Hill’s computers of the antivirus software last month. Kaspersky denies it has any links to the Russian government and its cyber operations.
The Israeli intervention was an important one, as sensitive U.S. national security secrets were at risk. But the disclosure of the Israeli involvement only serves to damage the Middle Eastern state, its operations, and its ties with the U.S. government, those with expertise in the Israeli cyber field say.
The precise details of how Israel was able to hack into Kaspersky Lab’s systems were not disclosed, but what was revealed is that Israeli intelligence officers presented the NSA with evidence of Russian government hackers attempting to glean classified information about the U.S.’s covert programs. Sources told the Times that the Israeli spooks showed their American counterparts the evidence in the form of screenshots and other documentation.
“It’s very sensitive. It could affect future collaboration, the chain of information,” says Daniel Cohen, researcher at Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) at Tel Aviv University.
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“In cyber, in general the sharing of information is very sensitive. Nothing to do with the leaking of sources, but more on the modus operandi and how cyber units operate,” he says. “I’m sure it will damage in a way the relationship. We need to build the trust again.”