Israelis nab CEOs over computer espionage

ISRAELI authorities last week uncovered a vast industrial-espionage operation in which top executives and investigators allegedly used sophisticated software to infiltrate their competitors’ computers.

  • E-Mail
By  Rhys Jones Published  June 5, 2005

ISRAELI authorities last week uncovered a vast industrial-espionage operation in which top executives and investigators allegedly used sophisticated software to infiltrate their competitors’ computers. A large-scale enquiry implicated mobile-phone providers, car importers and the nation’s main satellite television company. Police said 18 people were in custody, including the software programmers, an Israeli couple living in London as well as many high-profile CEOs. “This is one of the gravest scandals in industrial and market espionage in Israel,” said police Superintendent Roni Hindi, head of the special fraud investigation team. “We are talking about a lot of money. There are also companies abroad that were damaged and this is still being investigated,” he added. According to police, a computer programmer developed special software, called a trojan, on behalf of Israel’s largest private investigation firms who then sneaked the program into the computers of their clients’ major competitors via seemingly benign email attachments. This gave the companies complete access — over the internet — to their victims’ computers. Two mobile phone companies, Cellcom and Pele-phone, have been accused of spying on a third company, Partner, the local branch of Orange, police said. Other victims included the main TV cable company, HOT and a leading bottled water company. Victims aparently lost competitive bids and thousands of customers because of the spying. Those arrested included a top executive from the YES satellite television company, security officials who worked for Pele-Phone and Cellcom, and several private investigators. “It is hard to believe that the CEOs did not know what their subordinates were doing,” said Aryeh Edelman, deputy commander of Tel Aviv police’s Fraud Squad. “We can assume these people worked according to instructions they received from above,” he stated. Many of the 18 people arrested have denied breaking the law, while one lawyer claims no illegal activities were undertaken. “The software is totally legal. The question is if the use that my client made of the software was illegal — and the answer is definitely not,” said Ofir Katz Neriah, a lawyer for one of the suspects.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code