Research (Insikt)

Iran-Aligned Emerald Divide Influence Campaign Evolves to Exploit Israel-Hamas Conflict

Posted: 8th May 2024
By: Insikt Group®


New research from Recorded Future’s Insikt Group describes a complex influence campaign known as Emerald Divide, believed to be conducted by Iranian-aligned actors and active since 2021. The campaign aims to manipulate Israeli society by amplifying ideological divisions and diminishing trust in the Israeli government, particularly by capitalizing on reactions to the Israel-Hamas conflict and other social and political issues. Individual components of this influence campaign have been identified by various entities including Insikt Group, Microsoft, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), each attributing parts of this malign activity to Iranian state actors under names like Storm-1364.

Emerald Divide is noted for its dynamic approach, swiftly adapting its influence narratives to Israel’s evolving political landscape. It leverages modern digital tools such as AI-generated deepfakes and a network of strategically operated social media accounts, which target diverse and often opposing audiences, effectively stoking societal divisions and encouraging physical actions such as protests and the spreading of anti-government messages.

unnamed-11.png Timeline of accounts operationalized throughout the first operation of this campaign (Source: Recorded Future)

The operation also involves serious cybersecurity threats like the harvesting of personally identifiable information and doxing Israeli officials. Its continued evolution and adaptability make it a persistent security threat, with future operations likely focusing on exploiting other contentious issues within Israeli society.

In late 2023 and early 2024, significant developments were reported regarding the scope and attribution of this campaign. Haaretz Daily Newspaper and the disinformation watchdog group FakeReporter highlighted the extensive duration and impact of Emerald Divide's activities, stressing their role in escalating social and political polarization within Israel. This was in line with Shin Bet’s previous disclosures about Iran’s use of social media to intensify political and social rifts in the country, a concern that has been repeatedly echoed since the 2022 parliamentary elections.

unnamed-12.png (Left) Screenshot of a post on both Telegram channels “Second Israel” and “Two Hearts” on October 11, 2023; (Right) Screenshot of a post on both Telegram channels “Second Israel” and “Two Hearts” comparing Netanyahu to a virus (Source: Telegram)

Efforts to counteract Emerald Divide's influence involve collaboration among governments, technology firms, and security researchers. These collaborations focus on dismantling the campaign's infrastructure and reducing its reach and effectiveness. Public awareness and education are also vital in preventing individuals and organizations from unwittingly engaging with the campaign, thereby protecting themselves from its influence and preserving their reputational integrity.

To read the entire analysis, click here to download the report as a PDF.