Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s housekeeper was sentenced to three years in prison for spying for an Iran-linked hacker group, as well as offering to download harmful malware onto his computer, Israeli prosecutors say.
Omri Goren Gorochovsky, 38, and his partner worked as cleaners at the home despite previous criminal convictions. Gorochovsky reached out to the Iran-linked hacker group, known as Black Shadow, through Telegram after hearing about a previous cyberattack on several Israeli websites, an indictment seen by Business Insider claims. The housekeeper sent the group distinguishing pictures of Gantz’s residence as proof he worked there before offering to further spy for them and upload spyware to the defense minister’s computer through a USB drive in exchange for $7,000, according to the filing.
Gorochovsky, who accepted a plea deal to avoid espionage charges that carry a sentence of 10-15 years, maintained his innocence.
“[Gorochovsky] is not a spy, and this isn’t a spying scandal,” attorneys Gal Wolf and Anat Yaari, Gorochovsky’s defenders, said, according to the Times of Israel. “This is about a man who found himself entangled in debt and identified a security breach.”
In his initial interrogation, Gorochovsky said he intended to trick the Iranian hackers.
“If they would have waited a few days before arresting me, they’d see that I’m not a spy. I wanted to trick the Iranians and take their money without sending them any photo or documents,” he said in his interrogation, according to Channel 12.
Later, however, he admitted to the accusations against him but denied knowing of the hackers’ ties to Iran.
“Who says it was the Iranians? It was hackers on Telegram,” he said in a court appearance.
Gorochovsky’s arrest last November sent shock waves through Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, with questions arising as to how the housekeeper, who started working for Gantz before he entered politics, made it through the vetting process. Gorochovsky had five previous criminal convictions, including two for bank robberies, that led to four prison sentences.
Following an internal investigation last year, Shin Bet blamed “procedural errors” for the failure, issuing two official reprimands and tightening security protocol.
“Despite the arrest success, we failed in prevention. In a proper process, a man like this should not have been working around a protected individual. The mistake that happened in this particular incident allowed us to perform a deep investigation that allowed us to improve our processes and oversight mechanisms in everything regarding employees of protective people,” Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar said.