Housekeeper to Israel’s defence minister jailed for offering to spy on his employer

Show caption Gorochovsky offered to provide information about his employer Benny Gantz, the Israeli defence minister. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images Israel Housekeeper to Israel’s defence minister jailed for offering to spy on his employer Omri Goren Gorochovsky admitted contacting Black Shadow hacking collective linked to Iran Bethan McKernan in Jerusalem Wed 7 Sep 2022 17.46 BST Share on Facebook

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A housekeeper who worked for Israel’s defence minister has been jailed for offering to spy on his employer for an Iran-linked hacking group.

Omri Goren Gorochovsky, a resident of the central city of Lod, was sentenced to three years in prison by an Israeli court on Tuesday after being found guilty of attempting to pass on information to an enemy entity. Initial espionage charges were dropped under a plea deal.

The 38-year-old was arrested last November after authorities said he had contacted a group called Black Shadow. Little is known about the group, although its activities appear to be aligned with Tehran’s interests. According to experts, Black Shadow so far seems to be an “attention-seeking effort” rather than a data theft or money-making operation.

The hacker collective claimed several cyber-attacks targeting Israeli organisations, companies and internet service providers, which Gorochovsky read about in media reports.

Gorochovsky admitted to most of the allegations against him but denied knowingly offering to help Iran, where clerics and generals threaten the destruction of the Jewish state.

“[Gorochovsky] is not a spy and this isn’t a spying scandal,” the local Times of Israel news website quoted his legal team as saying after the sentencing. “This is about a man who found himself entangled in debt and identified a security breach.”

According to the indictment, the cleaner offered to provide information about the defence minister, Benny Gantz, and plant a bug on Gantz’s computer in exchange for $7,000 (£6,100).

To prove he had access to Gantz, Gorochovsky sent photographs taken inside the minister’s home, including of his computer and phone, photographs of his family, and tax records, it said.

Israel’s internal security service, the Shin Bet, said it quickly discovered Gorochovsky’s plans, and at no time was he able to access any classified material.

The affair caused embarrassment for the Shin Bet, however, when it emerged after his arrest that the housekeeper had an extensive criminal record, including four prison sentences and two bank robberies.

Gorochovsky had passed a Shin Bet security check when Gantz entered office. The agency said it had since tightened vetting protocols for people who work with protected individuals.

Israel and Iran frequently trade allegations of hacking and surveillance.

Earlier this year, Israel arrested four Jewish women of Iranian descent accused of taking photos of sensitive sites, monitoring security arrangements and making connections with politicians in exchange for money. Lawyers for the women said they did not know their handler was an Iranian operative.

Iranian officials have confirmed that Israeli spies have infiltrated the highest echelons of the Islamic republic’s security establishment in recent years.

A number of Iran’s top nuclear scientists have been killed and military facilities sabotaged in operations attributed to Israel’s national intelligence agency, the Mossad.