Reports of an elaborate and extensive Iranian online espionage network, which may have tracked hundreds of high-value targets with the help of fictitious social media accounts, should come as no surprise.
The purpose of a state-sponsored online espionage network is usually not only to gather information but also to use that information to prepare cyber attacks. Due to the resources at their disposal, governments can develop cyber-attack capabilities many times more powerful than other types of hackers.
As Esti Peshin, a former senior member of Unit 8200 of Military Intelligence and currently head of the Cyber Program Section at Israel Aerospace Industries’ Elta subsidiary, told The Jerusalem Post last year, “Attackers must know the structure of the network, who is working with it, and what defenses are in place. It’s very easy to get a list of employees, for example, by creating a fake social network identity.”