Spyware allows remote hackers to steal confidential information
from other PCs.
According to a Reuters media report, a married couple accused of
developing a Trojan horse to spy on top Israeli companies have been
placed in custody by the Israeli police.
Michael Haephrati, and his wife Ruth Brier-Haephrati, were
May 2005 in London, accused of writing malicious spyware software
which was bought by private investigators to help top Israeli
businesses spy on their competitors.
The couple were flown into Tel Aviv last night after Britain
approved their extradition. They are now expected to be
interrogated by police involved in the major industrial espionage
Companies probed by the Israeli authorities in connection with
the case include mobile phone operators, Cellcom and Pelephone, and
satellite television provider YES. All firms have denied any wrong
doing. The Trojan horse is said to have spied upon the Rani Rahav
PR agency (whose clients include Israel's second biggest mobile
phone operator, Partner Communications), and the HOT cable
television group. Mayer, a company which imports Volvo and Honda
cars to Israel is suspected of having spied on rival Champion
Motors, who import vehicles made by Audi and Volkswagen.
At least 18 other people, including corporate executives, have
been questioned by police investigating the case. A number of
private investigators, said to have been clients of the Haephratis,
have been indicted in connection with the investigation.
According to reports in the Israeli media, the Haephratis are
said to have offered to testify against their alleged clients in
exchange for a reduced sentence.
Last week, according to the media report, a programme on
Israel's Channel Two television channel conducted a telephone
interview with the Haephratis from the British prison where they
were being held. The programme claimed that Michael Haephrati
originally developed the Trojan horse as a joke, and then attempted
to market it to Israel's defense agencies. Ruth Brier-Haephrati is
said to have then decided alone to sell it to private investigators
working for corporations.
"I take full responsibility for my mistakes," Ruth
Brier-Haephrati is said to have told the TV channel. "Michael
always told me, 'Don't do it. Don't get in touch with the
investigators. I have a feeling they are misusing the system.'"
"Some people will raise an eyebrow in surprise that industrial
espionage like that apparently revealed by this investigation is
occuring, but this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Graham Cluley, senior
technology consultant for Sophos. "Every business needs to ensure
its defenses are in place to protect against spyware and other
malicious attacks. The threat of written-to-order Trojan horses and
hackers-for-hire is very real."
The Haephratis could face a jail term of five years if found
guilty by an Israeli court, but the sentence could rise if it is
shown sensitive data was stolen.
For more information about the latest trends in spyware, spam
and viruses, read the in-depth Sophos Security Threat Management
Sophos recommends that all computer users should ensure that
they are running an anti-virus product which is configured to
automatically update itself, security patches and firewall