Major Israeli Computer Espionage Case

This is a fascinating story of computer espionage.

Dozens of leading companies and top private investigators were named yesterday as suspects in a massive industrial espionage investigation that local police have been conducting for the past six months.

The companies suspected of commissioning the espionage, which was carried out by planting Trojan horse software in their competitors’ computers, include the satellite television company Yes, which is suspected of spying on cable television company HOT; cell-phone companies Pelephone and Cellcom, suspected of spying on their mutual rival Partner; and Mayer, which imports Volvos and Hondas to Israel and is suspected of spying on Champion Motors, importer of Audis and Volkswagens. Spy programs were also located in the computers of major companies such as Strauss-Elite, Shekem Electric and the business daily Globes.

Read the whole story; it’s filled with interesting details. To me, the most interesting is that even though the Trojan was installed on computers at dozens of Israel’s top companies, it was discovered only because the Trojan writer also used it to spy after his ex-in-laws.

There’s a lesson here for all computer criminals.

Edited to add: Much more information here.

Posted on May 31, 2005 at 7:17 AM9 Comments


Arik May 31, 2005 8:04 AM

I have a comprehensive summary and a short list of media sources in my blog.

The most amazing thing is that it might have gone on indefinitely if it wasn’t for those meddling couple who discovered it.

Clive Robinson May 31, 2005 8:11 AM

Ah the old Floppy Disk virus/trojan trick.

I guess we are so het up about Internet transportation we tend to forget the old humble removable media…

I guess that although most virus/malware scanners could not pick it up, one that used the “Monitored Jail” principle would have picked up on a modified file system outside of the users intention…

Israel Torres May 31, 2005 8:36 AM

“There’s a lesson here for all computer criminals.”

The real lesson is that humans are the weakest link in anything.

Israel Torres

Dan May 31, 2005 10:10 AM

The thing in Israel is that only the security apparatuses take security seriously. All others – businesses, critical infrastructures owners etc. don’t really protect themselves. And this is in a country that brought Checkpoint to the world. About two years ago I told a senior partner in one of Israel’s leading law firms that the issue of security is the next big thing, and that what was going on (then) in the U.S. will eventually find its way to Israel. He told me that I should forget about this nonsense. I just e-mailed him yesterday, asking if he recalls our conversation. He never answered…

Davi Ottenheimer May 31, 2005 11:32 AM

“Trojan horse software”

I like that the article actually used the proper phrase. Although it’s technically and historically very incorrect, I often find people prefer to say “Trojan software” and, even more ironically, to warn us about “Trojans” or describe people as “Trojan writers”.

“it was discovered only because the Trojan writer also used it to spy after his ex-in-laws.”

Sort of. It was actually discovered because someone posted the contents of an unpublished book to the web. If I remember correctly, this is also how the T-Mobile case was discovered — someone posted highly classified documents to the web.

“even anti-virus programs cannot detect Haephrati’s malware, because each is unique”

Poor choice of words by the story writer. Anti-virus programs are more like the very first defence, to deter all the generic and well-known exploits, and certainly not something that could provide the last stand against someone with motive and opportunity.

Glen Marshall May 31, 2005 9:38 PM

There’s more of a lesson to those who might be victims.

The current situation is as absurd as people who neglect to install or use dore lock because they do not understand carpentry nor the work habits of burglars.

Ron June 1, 2005 7:00 AM

To add to the more personal and less technical-security side of this story, Varda Raziel-Jacont is well-known in Israel for her radio show giving personal advice to people calling in, and I don’t know how many times she’s advised mothers calling in about their daughters’ choices of partners…

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