Israel Police has been using the services of civilian hackers in various, often classified investigations, financial daily Calcalist reported on Wednesday.
The report claims that the police’s SIGINT unit has hired at least three external hackers as paid subcontractors in order to assist it in gathering intelligence and cracking criminal cases.
SIGINT is short for signals intelligence, an intelligence-gathering method using the interception of signals, whether communications between people or from electronic signals not directly used in communication.
The findings come as part of a two-part exposé into the law enforcement organization's dealings by the Ynet sister publication, which also revealed on Tuesday that the police's SIGINT unit has been allegedly employing the controversial Pegasus malware to spy on civilians.
These hackers, essentially regular citizens, were made privy to classified information without the required security clearance and no efforts have been made to ensure they weren't misusing it, as alleged by Calcalist.
Calcalist also claims that the police often utilized the hackers' skills to carry out illicit actions, including breaking into private WiFi networks, downloading security camera footage of private companies and hacking into insurance files, as well as phones which police couldn’t crack using scandal-ridden NSO Group’s Pegasus.
Such actions took place without judicial supervision and outcomes were made confidential. Hackers were paid after providing receipts for their “advisory” services.
One such hacker was identified as Elishay Tubul, a 31-year-old immigrant from France who served in the IDF as a lone soldier. Considered to be a computer genius, Tubul was recruited to be a police contractor at the age of 24, one year after being discharged from the military, despite being embroiled in legal troubles due to misuse of his hacking skills.
"Since I had no money to get by while I was in the military, I had to look for sources that would allow me to make ends meet, and so I started hacking PlayStation devices so users could copy web software," Tubul said.
According to Tubul, the police never scrutinized the methods he used to obtain intelligence nor their legality. He says he had had full access to the unit's offices in Jerusalem and was exposed to highly classified information despite lacking any police training or the appropriate clearance.
A source familiar with Tubul's work said the hacker helped in craking several complicated cases involving organized crime and tracking state witnesses.
Israel Police denied the claims made in the report, calling them "untrue."
“The claims included in your request are untrue. Israel Police acts according to the authority granted to it by law and when necessary according to court orders and within the rules and regulations set by the overseeing bodies," a statement read.
"The police’s activity in this sector is under constant supervision and inspection of the attorney general of Israel and other external legal entities. Naturally, the police don't intend to comment on the tools in their use. Nevertheless, we will continue to act in a determined manner with all the means at our disposal, in the physical and online spaces, to fight crime in general, and organized crime in particular, to protect the safety and property of the public.”