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Israeli couple charged with developing industrial espionage spyware

A UK-based Israeli couple have been formally charged for allegedly developing a Trojan horse that helped Israeli companies spy on their competitors.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, and her 44-year-old husband Michael Haephrati were extradited from London to Tel Aviv in January.

According to the indictment, Michael Haephrati developed the spyware Trojan horse, while his wife, Ruth, marketed it to several private investigators.

Private investigators are said to have bought the code and installed it onto the computers of their clients' rivals.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati has been charged with aggravated fraud, unlawful computer access, virus insertion, installing tapping equipment, invasion of privacy, managing an unlawful database, and conspiracy to commit a crime.

Michael Haephrati is charged with lesser offences of assisting his wife in these activities.

The Trojan horse is said to have been used by private investigators to spy on the Rani Rahav PR agency, whose clients include Israel's second biggest mobile phone operator Partner Communications, and the HOT cable television group. 

Another alleged victim of the Trojan is Champion Motors, which imports Audi and Volkswagen motor vehicles.

Prosecutors have asked the Tel Aviv court to keep the couple in custody until the trial’s conclusion.

“This case sends out a strong message that the menace of spyware is growing, and that companies need to realise that it's not just home users who are at risk,” said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at security software company Sophos. 

“Organised criminals are hell bent on stealing information and making a profit at the expense of big business,” he said.


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