The 19-year-old Jewish man who is the main suspect in a series of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the U.S. and beyond could have used widely available technology to avoid detection as he allegedly touched off a wave of fear before he was nabbed yesterday by Israeli authorities, experts said.
Police banned publication of the suspect’s name and said his motives were still unclear. But they described him as a hacker who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship and who would remain in custody until at least March 30. During his arrest at his house in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, authorities say he tried to grab an officer’s gun.
His lawyer, Galit Bash, said her client had a “very serious medical condition” that might have affected his behavior.
Police said he used “camouflage technologies” to disguise his voice and mask his location when he made the bomb threats. They said a search of his home uncovered antennas and satellite equipment.
Anthony Townsend, associate professor of information systems at Iowa State University, said a “diligent, reasonably talented person” could have tapped into his neighbors’ wireless access points, whether or not they required a password, in 45 minutes or less.
“It made (the bomb threats) difficult to trace back to him,” Townsend said. “If his computer was heavily encrypted, that could also have impeded the investigation.”
The suspect is also believed to have used widely available anonymity software that “puts you in a cloud of IP addresses” that link to different computers and make it extremely difficult to trace, said Ron Hosko, a retired FBI assistant director.
“The more techniques they use, the harder it’s going to be to identify these people,” said Robert Rodriguez, chairman and founder of Security Innovation Network.
Nimrod Vax, a co-founder of the U.S.-Israeli cybersecurity firm BigID, said authorities would have had to sift through “billions, if not trillions” of pieces of data, including phone records, routing logs and IP connections.
The suspect’s arrest came after a trans-Atlantic investigation with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. U.S. Jewish groups welcomed the breakthrough in the case, which had raised concerns of rising anti-Semitism and drawn condemnation from President Trump.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.
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