Husband and wife trojan team indicted

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Two Israeli individuals alleged to have developed an industrial espionage trojan that helped companies spy on their competitors were indicted this weekend in the Tel Aviv District Court for a series of computer crimes.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, and her 44-year-old husband, Michael Haephrati, were extradited from London in January, and are said to have confessed to most of the charges against them. According to the indictment, the couple managed the firm Target-Eya.

Michael Haephrati developed the spyware trojan horse, while his wife, marketed it to several private investigators who bought the code and installed it onto the computers of its clients' rivals.

"This case sends out a strong message around the world that the menace of spyware is growing, and that companies need to realize that it's not just home users who are at risk. Organized criminals are hell bent on stealing information and making a profit at the expense of big business," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati has been formally 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 public relations agency (whose clients include Israel's second biggest mobile phone operator, Partner Communications), and the HOT cable television group. Another alleged victim was Champion Motors, which imports Audi and Volkswagen motor vehicles. The Haephratis are also accused of spying on the computers of Amnon Jacont and Varda Raziel-Jacont, sections of whose book mysteriously appeared on the internet before it was published.

Varda Raziel-Jacont is the father of Michael Haephrati's former wife, Natalia. Prosecutors have asked the court to keep Ruth Brier-Haephrati and Michael Haephrati in custody until the conclusion of the trial.

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