Israel Current Affairs - 2019

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WhatsApp confirms ‘Targeted’ Spyware Attack

WhatsApp, one of the most popular messaging apps in the world with about 1.5 Billion users worldwide confirmed a targeted spyware attack on its platform.

Key Highlights

  • Threat: A security flaw in WhatsApp acted as a vulnerability, which allowed hackers to insert malicious software on user’s phones by calling the target using the app.
  • This latest exploit impacts Android devices and Apple’s iPhones, among others. It was discovered by company in early May and WhatsApp quickly attempted to fix it and even rolled out an update within 10 days.
  • Concern: WhatsApp is a “secure” communications app as the messages shared on platform are end-to-end encrypted, which means they should only be displayed in a readable form on sender or recipient’s device. However, the surveillance software used in spyware would have let an attacker read messages on potential target’s device.
  • Impact: Such attacks are designed to compromise users data stored on mobile device and thus puts information stored by billions of people at risk.
  • Potential Attacker: As per a spyware dealer, the hacking tool was developed by ‘NSO Group’, a shadowy Israel-based firm, which has earlier been accused of helping governments from Middle East to Mexico snoop on activists and journalists. Several security researchers also found similarities between the malicious codes with other tech which have been developed by the firm.
  • Restraint: to protect against potential targeted exploits, WhatsApp encouraged its users to upgrade to latest version of its app, and to also keep their mobile operating system (OS) updated as an added precaution.

About NSO Group

  • The group gained prominence in 2016 when several researchers accused it of helping to spy on an activist in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
  • In past it has been referred as a “cyber-arms dealer”.
  • ‘Pegasus’, a highly invasive tool is NSO’s flagship software. It is capable of switching on a target’s phone camera and microphone, gather location data and can even access and collect data from it.
  • But, the firm denied any participation in potential spyware.

Israel honors 1971 war hero Lt. Gen. (retd) JFR Jacob

Israel honors 1971 war (Bangladesh’s Liberation War) hero Lt. Gen. (retd) Jack Farj Rafael (JFR) Jacob with a plaque on Wall of Honour at the Ammunition Hill, Israel.

JFR Jacob

  • He was one of the most prominent members of India’s relatively small Jewish community, who served as a Lieutenant General in Indian Army and as the chief of staff of Indian Army’s Eastern Command.
  • He also fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965.
  • He negotiated the historic surrender of Pakistani troops in Dhaka after the 1971 war.
  • He later became Governor of two Indian states Goa and Punjab.
  • He died in 2016 at the age of 92.

The Wall of Honour

  • It pays tributes to heroism and courage of Jewish soldiers who fought in defence of the countries they lived in. It also honors their embodied virtues like values of bravery, loyalty, commitment and dedication to a mission, leadership, creativity, camaraderie and sanctity of life.
  • The Wall has plaques honoring more than 340 people namely privates, high ranking army officers, women, front line fighters and humble members of supporting units who implemented these virtues.
  • It has one more plaque honoring Lt. Gen. Joseph ‘Jerry’ Jhirad, an Indian Jewish soldier, who died in 1965 war against Pakistan.
  • The 90-feet high structure with a flag was donated by Sam Marshall, an Indian Jew, who in association with India-born Jewish Judge, Abe Sofaer of US initiated move to honour Lt. Gen. Jacob at Wall of Honour.

Ammunition Hill

  • It was a fortified Jordanian military post in northern part of Jordanian ruled East Jerusalem. It is the site of one of fiercest battles during Six Day War (Arab–Israeli War 1967) in Israel lost 21 soldiers but emerged victorious.
  • It has become a national memorial site where young soldiers and officers are inducted into Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and salute Israeli flag.