Israeli court to jail husband and wife trojan team

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A married couple is to be jailed for developing and selling an industrial espionage spyware trojan that helped private investigators spy on their clients' competitors.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, and her 44-year-old husband Michael Haephrati, have entered a plea bargain to be sentenced to four and two years in jail, respectively, after confessing to their involvement in the trojan horse case. The plea entered in a Tel Aviv court, means that they will each have to pay one million New Israeli Shekels ($212,100) in compensation.

According to the court, the couple were managers of the firm Target-Eya. Michael Haephrati developed the spyware trojan, while his wife, marketed it to several private investigators who bought the code and installed it onto the computers of their rivals.

"The Israeli authorities should be congratulated for bringing these cyber criminals to justice - it sends a strong message that these kind of activities will not be tolerated. However, it remains to be seen if the private investigators who deployed the trojan horses on the computers of innocent businesses, and potentially made more money than the Haephratis in the process, will also be held officially to account," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "We are seeing growing evidence of trojan horses and viruses being written for profit. Every business needs multi-layered security in place to best defend against this growing internet threat."

The Haephrati's trojan horse is said to have been used by private investigators to spy on both a public relations agency, whose clients include Israel's second biggest mobile phone operator, Partner Communication, and a cable television station. Another alleged victim was Champion Motors, who import Audi and Volkswagen motor vehicles.

Tel Aviv District Court Judge Bracha Ofir-Tom will announce whether she accepts the Haephrati's plea bargain on March 27.

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