Israeli private detective, Aviram Azari has pleaded guilty for involvement in surveillance and cyber intelligence hack scheme in April 2022. Azari, who has been detained and under investigation in the United States since 2019, used New Delhi-based hacking company BellTroX Info Tech Services to conduct surveillance operations on Russian oligarchs.
The Azari case surfaced the name of a Russian businessman and aluminium magnate, Oleg Deripaska as one of the Israeli private detective’s clients. Deripaska allegedly employed Azari in connection with a business dispute in Austria. Both BellTroX and Deripaska’s press secretary had denied being involved in the hacking and claimed that the accusation was false.
New York prosecutors alleged that Azari had orchestrated a series of hacking attacks on behalf of unnamed third parties against US companies that are based in New York, using fake websites and phishing messages to steal passwords from email accounts. Azari’s attorney Barry Zone said the allegation against the defendant stemmed from the work that Azari did for German payment company Wirecard, which filed for insolvency in June 2020, owing creditors almost $4 billion, after disclosing a 1.9 billion hole in its accounts that EY said as the result of a sophisticated global fraud.
New investigation reports by an international consortium of journalists at The Guardian revealed a team of Israeli contractors who claim to have manipulated more than 30 elections around the world using hacking, sabotage and automated disinformation on social media. The team appears to have been working under the radar in elections in various countries for more than two decades.
The team was led by Tal Hanan, a 50-year-old former Israeli special forces operative who works privately using the pseudonym “Jorge”. Team Jorge ran a private service offering to covertly meddle in elections without a trace. The team also have corporate clients.
One of Team Jorge’s key services was a sophisticated software package, Advanced Impact Media Solutions also known as Aims. It controlled a vast army of thousands of fake social media profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Telegram, Gmail, Instagram and YouTube.
Hanan told the undercover reporters that his services, which others described as “black ops”, were available to intelligence agencies, political campaigns and private companies that wanted to secretly manipulate public opinion. He said they had been used across Africa, South and Central America, the US and Europe. The methods and techniques described by Team Jorge raise new challenges for big tech platforms, which have for years struggled to prevent nefarious actors spreading falsehoods or breaching the security on their platforms. Evidence of a global private market in disinformation aimed at elections will also ring alarm bells for democracies around the world.