Remember those bomb threats being phoned into school a while ago?

In late January 2016, schools around New Zealand began to receive hoax calls from an unknown source utilising voice-masking technology. The calls would continue sporadically over the next 11 months and claimed to be either bomb threats or active shooter scenarios. In February 2016, the volume of calls escalated and the New Zealand Police commenced an investigation into the calls, named Operation Cable. The operation was initially coordinated at the national command and coordination centre based at police national headquarters, and included staff from several specialist squads including the cybercrime unit.

A Ministry of Education representative was also embedded to ensure clear communication lines. By day two of this operation, police were able to give real-time information to schools regarding hoax calls as they were being made. Subsequent to the February calls, it became apparent that this was a worldwide issue, with Australia, the UK, and the US all being targeted for a considerable length of time.

From their inquiries into the February calls, the New Zealand Police identified an Israeli connection utilising VOIP technology and subsequently passed this onto the Israeli police.

In December 2016, another cluster of calls started with the same voice-masking technology. By the conclusion of this series of calls, over 150 New Zealand schools in total had received hoax calls during 2016 from the same offender. Some schools were unaware they had been targeted, as a small percentage of calls were unanswered or went to a recorded answer message.

The Ministry of Education has calculated the cost to these calls excluding student disruption, distress and well being to be in excess of $100,000. A positive outcome of the operation has been highlighting the need for schools to have contingency plans in place for these types of threats. The decision to evacuate or lock down when notified of a threat is the responsibility of the respective school. Overseas examples have demonstrated the potential outcomes of these scenarios, but fortunately in this case it turns out there was no actual capability to carry out the threat.

It all seemed rather … pointless in the end.

In March 2017, Israeli police, assisted by the FBI, arrested a 19 year old male in Israel. He is accused of making threats against Jewish community centres and other buildings linked to Jewish communities in the US, and having made hundreds of threatening phone calls over the past year, targeting schools and other public institutions in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (this includes the Operation Cable offending).

A man in Israel running anti-Semitic operations?

Detective Superintendent Tim Anderson, National Manager Criminal Investigations, welcomed the arrest of a suspect in Israel: “This was a relatively sophisticated attack which utilised voice over internet telephone calls. It caused considerable disruption and fear for the victims involved and is a good demonstration of our capability in this area. “It is a direct reflection on the quality and determination of our investigators who quietly but persistently progress difficult cases such as these.

It also shows the value of the strong international partnerships we have built with overseas law enforcement jurisdictions. “I am mindful that we must let the Israeli judicial process run its course, meaning that we are limited in the information we can provide. However, I hope that [this latest] development will bring some comfort to the victims involved in New Zealand.”

Thank goodness that Murray McCully’s personal jihad against Israel had not yet damaged cooperation between law enforcement.


– via email, H/T  D Burt

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