Israeli Trojan espionage writers extradited for trial


Israeli Trojan espionage writers extradited for trial

Antony Savvas

A London-based Israeli couple at the centre of one of the world's largest industrial espionage and computer hacking scandals have been extradited to Israel to face trial.

Computer specialist Michael Haephrati and his wife Ruth are accused of supplying sophisticated Trojan horse software used by private detective agencies to spy on scores of top Israeli firms.

The scandal unravelled last year, and the couple were remanded in custody awaiting an extradition request from the Israeli authorities.

Their arrest followed an international investigation by the computer crime unit of the Tel Aviv fraud squad, Interpol, police in Germany and the US, and the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit.

Michael Haephrati, who has homes in London and Germany, provided his services through London-registered computer consultancy, Target Eye. The company lists its specialities as security, intelligence and spyware.

According to Israeli police, Haephrati, who honed his computer skills during his three-year military service with the Israeli army, charged $2,000 (£1,200) a month to supply and maintain custom designed Trojan horse spy software.

Israeli police are investigating the role of 15 senior executives from top Israeli companies, after they allegedly hired detective agencies to obtain confidential information from their competitors' computer systems.

Telecoms companies, advertising agencies and public relations firms are among more than 20 organisations known to have been targeted.

The agencies are accused of conducting industrial espionage on a huge scale against scores of computers belonging to listed companies and private individuals, according to documents lodged at Tel Aviv Magistrates Court.

The couple are now being interrogated by Israeli police. It is believed they have agreed to give evidence for the prosecution in return for a more lenient sentence.

Computer hacking carries a maximum five-year jail sentence in Israel, which can be increased if data theft also takes place.

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