Home iran Exclusive – IRGC Deploy ‘Honeypots’ For Sexpionage On Israeli Forces

Exclusive – IRGC Deploy ‘Honeypots’ For Sexpionage On Israeli Forces

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One of Iran’s cyber espionage tactics to support Hamas is using Hebrew-speaking women to gather intelligence from Israeli soldiers, Iran International has learned.

According to our sources, several of these women are based in the religious city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran and use social media to seduce Israeli soldiers by sending nude images or provocative footage of themselves in an effort to gather military intelligence.

While the screen names and details of these women are presumably fake, the explicit photos and videos they shared with Israeli soldiers appear to be genuine. To entice their victims, these cyber operatives sent photos and videos of themselves wearing revealing clothing, heavy makeup, and, in some cases, nude photos.

According to Iran International’s investigations, members of this IRGC-run catfishing cell use a wide range of fake profiles across various online platforms, managing at least 22 different avatars in some instances.

Several fake Instagram profiles the IDF says were used in attempts to obtain information from soldiers for the Iran-backed Hamas militant group (November 2, 2023)

Two of these Mashhad-based ‘swallows’, identified as Samira Baghbani Torshizi and Haniyeh Ghaffarian, used their real pictures but posed as Israeli soldiers in their attempt to seduce and extract information from real Israeli soldiers. Torshizi, whose screen name was “Or Olga,” had claimed to be a Jewish immigrant residing in London. She had asked a soldier if she could see pictures of a vehicle he used in the army, wondering if “it is secret or classified.”

Ghaffarian had also tried to make an emotional bond with an Israeli soldier through sending photos and videos of herself.

Last month, the IDF announced that it foiled a network of Hamas supporters using fake social media profiles to extract information from the IDF forces, including information on the units that would be sent into the Gaza Strip and the timing of dispatches or operations underway as part of the Israel’s offensive against Iran-backed Islamist militia Hamas.

The accounts made contact with troops and “managed a kind of romantic relationship… through correspondence, voice recordings and video calls” in order to gather information for Hamas, the IDF said. The number of potential victims was estimated to be between hundreds and thousands of soldiers, including reservists. The IDF said the faux social media profiles had additional fake profiles posing as relatives and friends, in order to “strengthen their credibility.”

“In one case, the operative asked for the name of the soldier’s base and inquired, ‘When are you entering Gaza?’ In another instance, a profile named ‘Shira Simon’ claimed to be an intelligence officer to an officer in the Givati brigade, subsequently asking why he was on a base in the Golan Heights. The soldier replied that he was there for training.”

Last year, Israel’s internal security service Shin Bet also revealed a similar case, an Iranian operator working under the name of Sara Puppi, pretending to be a young Jewish girl with connections and business in Israel. In February, Twitter and Facebook suspended pages and profiles of an Iranian disinformation unit that was targeting nationalist and ultra-religious Jews in Israel.

Sexpionage is a historically documented phenomenon and was one of the methods of choice for the Soviet intelligence. In the Soviet Union, female agents tasked with employing such tactics were called ‘swallows,’ while their male counterparts were referred to as ‘ravens.’ The Islamic Republic has famously used swallows to honeytrap or blackmail its critical figures.

In one of the major recent cases, Iran’s intelligence apparatus used one of these so-called swallows to lure and consequently abduct Habib Asyud (also known as Habib Chaab) — an Iranian-Arab leading separatist – in Istanbul. He was smuggled to Tehran in November 2020 and was hanged earlier this year.

Iran supports Hamas but says it did not play any role in the Islamist militants’ October 7 terror attack that triggered the current crisis. Iran also backs the Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group that has deep ties with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction in Gaza that is also backed by Iran.