How Governments Find Latest Zero-Day Exploits and Hacking Tools? They Just Ask…

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Mar 2

In a rare peek into how the governments source working, zero-day exploits for spying on their targets, a letter from the Israeli government has come to the front. Obtained by Motherboard, the letter is being called “unusual” for it was sent to multiple American hackers and companies without solicitation and who had no prior contracts with the government.

“The Government of Israel ­Ministry of Defense (“GOI­MOD”) invites [REDACTED] to provide
information regarding Research and Development (R&D) Vulnerabilities and Zero ­Day Exploits,” the letter starts.

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The Government of Israel Ministry of Defense (GOI­MOD) is interested in advanced Vulnerabilities R&D and zero­ day exploits for use by its law enforcement and security agencies for a wide variety of target platforms and technologies. We are interested in both offensive and defensive cyber security contractors focused in vulnerabilities R&D that will enable the GOI-MOD to identify and engage with relevant team and projects.

One company that received this letter back in 2015 told the publication that “there wasn’t a single thing about this that was normal. I don’t know what the mission was given how bizarre it was.”

The letter was sent by an employee of the Israeli mission to the US in New York City in February 2015 to multiple companies in the United States. While it sounds like a regular way governments look for potential contractors, many security companies found it bizarre to have been contacted by the Israeli government since they had never worked for the government before.

It is also interesting to see that Israel – the country that leads in spyware technology – was looking into tapping non-Israeli companies for stockpiling even more zero days. It confirms that the country remains ambitious in attracting the best talent in the world when it comes to surveillance and spyware tools.

Israel has some of the world’s leading zero-day vendors and spyware makers, including the likes of notorious NSO Group and Elbit Systems Ltd. The latter, a government defense contractor, recently came under fire for enabling an African country to spy on dissidents in an espionage campaign.

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Here’s the complete letter sent by the Israeli Ministry of Defense to several American hackers and companies: