Analysis - Deadlock in Mossad: From field to cyber defeats

Analysis - Deadlock in Mossad: From field to cyber defeats

On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that three senior Mossad officials responsible for agent recruitment, IT, and counterterrorism resigned over moves by new spy chief David Barnea. Some media sources also announced that more are planning to quit in the coming days in protest to the changes and closure of some Mossad divisions, opening of new divisions, and strengthening of some other divisions.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Repeated failures in the intelligence and operation cases of the Israeli spy apparatus have led to a wave of resignations and changes.

On Tuesday, Israeli media reported that three senior Mossad officials responsible for agent recruitment, IT, and counterterrorism resigned over moves by new spy chief David Barnea. Some media sources also announced that more are planning to quit in the coming days in protest to the changes and closure of some Mossad divisions, opening of new divisions, and strengthening of some other divisions.

According to the report, the head of Mossad intends to focus the work of this spy apparatus on two areas: technology and operations. Barnea feels that "Mossad lags behind other [intelligence] devices in the world in everything related to technology," the report went on.

Deadlock in Mossad

In the last months in office, Benjamin Netanyahu changed the Mossad director, hence giving way to changes in the spying agency. In May, three days after Gaza war ceasefire, Netanyahu sacked Yossi Cohen and Namef Barnea as new chief. The change coming shortly after the war means that Mossad failed to realize the set goals. Most of regional media outlets at the time tied the dismissal of Cohen to the failure in the war against Hamas. Arabic Post website said that the Israeli Intelligence could not predict Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements' tactics to beat the much-vaunted Israeli Iron Dome air defenses. It was clear that the main problem for Israel was the lack of information and the failure to detect deceptive tactics and camouflage techniques of Hamas and Islamic Jihad thanks to a watertight military structure and information classification system developed by the Palestinian groups, continued the outlet.

The intelligence fiasco in Gaza war even made headlines in the Israeli media, with Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn writing that some Israeli commentators have called for the purge of Israeli military leaders for their role in the Gaza campaign failure.

The current changes take place about six months after the new head of Mossad took office, and show that even the new head of the organization has not been able to achieve his goals during these six months, and therefore Mossad officials are considering broader changes.

Mossad has also suffered major setbacks in field operations recently. In April, for the second time in less than three weeks, Tel Aviv asked Israeli citizens to avoid travel to Iraq's Kurdistan after the destruction of the Mossad intelligence center in the Kurdish region's capital Erbil by Iraqi groups. Prior to the attack on the Mossad headquarters in Erbil in April the Israeli authorities had warned against the travel of Israeli citizens to northern Iraq. Observers link the warnings to revelation of the identity of the Israeli spies in the Kurdish region. Destruction of the Mossad covert building by Iraqi groups last April was one of the clearest signs that the Mossad operations in Iraq had been exposed. The news of the intelligence defeat was met with backlash in the Israeli regime's political and media circles.

Cyberspace defeats

Mossad is not just failing on the ground but also it is proving a failure story in the cyberspace. Earlier this month, a hacking group published intelligence files linked to the Israeli military, containing personal and work data of hundreds of IDF officers. The group, naming itself "Moses Staff", published on its Telegram channel and also website information of a military unit at its entirety. The files include addresses, emails, and phone numbers of hundreds of service members.

A few days later, the Jerusalem Post newspaper claimed that an Iranian hacking group called "Black Shadow" hacked into the servers of the an Internet company "Cyberserve",, took it out of access, and threatened to disclose its information. According to the report, Cyberserver is a web hosting company that provides server services and data storage for industrial companies.

The Jerusalem Post reports that the data obtained by Iranian hackers covers a wide range of occupations: from the Pegasus travel booking company to the Dan bus company, and even information about the Children's Museum.

Of course, this was not first and the only cyber attack against the Israeli regime, and it has been repeatedly targeted in cyberspace. Last week, American and Israeli cyber security companies announced that the hacking group "Lysium" had targeted Israeli organizations and networks. The report also says that in one particular case, Lysium targeted the Israeli foreign ministry office that provided "valuable" information on the current state of bilateral relations and future interactions.

Aviv Kochavi, the chief of general staff of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in a latest address of the Committee on Foreign and Defebse Affairs of the Knesset admitted that the most important threats Israel has is cyber attacks against civil institutions and facilities. He warned against the consequences of such assaults that could cripple majority of institutions and systems. Attack on Hillel Yaffe Hospital on October 18 is an example.

Gil Shwed, the CEO of Check Point Israeli-American software company, warned that Tel Aviv is far from ready to confront, to an acceptable level, the attacks especially on its infrastructure like water system.

His warnings are almost in line with a report published by the Israeli Inspector General about the attacks that can impact the the economic and civil institutions relaying on information technology for work.

The admissions by the Israeli officials to the inability of this regime against cyber attacks show well Tel Aviv is not only weak on the ground but also its spy apparatus is extremely weak in the face of cyber attacks.




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