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14 Mar 2006

Husband and wife face jail for Trojan horse that spied on businesses

Plea bargain would mean four years in prison for Ruth Brier-Haephrati

Spyware. Image copyright (c) Sophos
Private investigators used a Trojan horse created by the couple to spy on businesses.

Experts at SophosLabs™, Sophos's global network of virus, spyware and spam analysis centers, have welcomed the news that a married couple are to be jailed for developing and selling a spyware Trojan horse that helped private investigators spy on their clients' business competitors.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, and her 44-year-old husband Michael Haephrati, have have entered a plea bargain to be sentenced to four and two years in jail respectively after confessing to their involvement in the Trojan horse case. The plea entered in a Tel Aviv court also says that they will have to pay 1 million New Israeli Shekels (US $212,000) each in compensation.

According to the court, the couple were managers of the firm Target-Eya. Michael Haephrati developed the spyware Trojan horse, while his wife, Ruth, marketed it to several private investigators who bought the code and installed it onto the computers of its clients' rivals.

"The Israeli authorities should be congratulated for bringing these cyber criminals to justice - it sends a strong message that these kind of activities will not be tolerated. However, it remains to be seen if the private investigators who deployed the Trojan horses on the computers of innocent businesses, and potentially made more money than the Haephratis in the process, will also be brought to court," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "We are seeing growing evidence of Trojan horses and viruses being written for profit. Every business needs multi-layered security in place to best defend against this growing internet threat."

The Haephrati's trojan horse is said to have been used by private investigators to spy on a PR agency (whose clients include Israel's second biggest mobile phone operator, Partner Communications), and a cable television station. Another alleged victim was Champion Motors, who import Audi and Volkswagen motor vehicles.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom will announce whether she accepts the Haephrati's plea bargain on 27 March 2006.

Companies are recommended to protect their email with a consolidated solution to thwart the virus, spyware and spam threats and secure their desktops and servers with automatically updated anti-virus protection.

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