London couple arrested for role in large-scale industrial espionage

May 31, 2005 Sophos Press Release

Spyware. Image copyright (c) Sophos
Spyware allows remote hackers to steal confidential information from other PCs.

According to several media reports, Israeli police have revealed their findings of a large-scale industrial espionage scandal. A London-based couple, Michael Haephrati, 41, and his wife Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28 were arrested last week for writing the malicious software which was used by Israeli companies to spy on their competitors.

A number of Israel's leading companies are suspected of hiring private investigators to infect their competitors computers with Trojan Horses, designed to record and report back confidential findings. Infected industries include satellite, cellular communication and auto manufacturing.

The London duo were detained and await an extradition hearing on 3 June. The malicious software was reported to have been tweaked specifically for jobs, depending on the espionage task at hand.

"There are also companies abroad that were damaged. This is still being investigated," said police Superintendent Roni Hindi, head of the special fraud investigation team told the media.

Police are continuing their investigations, but reports allege that over eighteen arrests took place - some of whom are top CEOs of Israel's leading companies. According to Haaretz newspaper, nine of the eighteen detained are detectives who are suspected of having transferred confidential data of immense commercial value over a period of 18 months.

"Computers can hold highly valuable and sensitive information, often worth much more than the hardware equipment itself," said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. "To keep this information safe from data-stealing malicious software such as spyware and Trojans, it is vital to protect the network with the latest security software. "