Monday, May 30, 2005

Industrial Espionage Ring Broken

The Washington Post reports on the busting of an industrial espionage ring operating in Israel, that used planted Trojan Horse programs to spy. Link.
Israel's business community has been rocked by a major computer espionage scandal that was uncovered when a husband-and-wife book-writing team complained to police that someone had hacked into their computer system and stolen files.

Investigators traced the alleged theft to the wife's former son-in-law, a computer programmer, and determined that he had also sold copies of "Trojan Horse" software to private detectives who used the software to spy for corporate clients on competing firms.

Last week police arrested 16 people in Israel, including senior executives of some of the country's leading high-tech companies and the private investigators they had allegedly employed. At the same time, British authorities, acting on an Israeli request, arrested the former son-in-law and his wife in London and are holding them pending an extradition hearing later this week. [...]

In a statement released over the weekend, police said they had discovered a "Trojan Horse" virus on Jackont's computer that they were able to trace to an unnamed source. The virus allowed the person to control the computer, make changes to its programs, monitor everything it contained and raid it for information -- all without leaving any hint of the virus's existence. Investigators also discovered that the same person had sold the "Trojan Horse" to three of Israel's largest private investigation companies, which used it to illegally collect data for their corporate clients.

Police said the virus was planted via e-mail or a promotional computer disk supposedly sent to the target company by a well-known and reliable business partner. They said dozens of companies may have been spied upon without ever realizing they were under surveillance.

It is amazing how easy it is to spy on a competitor's computer, and how apparently difficult it is to detect. I would hope that the latest security software could detect these Trojan Horses. Perhaps all of the victims had failed to follow the most basic security precautions.

If the perpetrator had been content to make money selling his illegal software to private detectives, it is unlikely that any of this would have been detected. It was when he used the same software to spy on his ex-in-laws, and spread what he found on their computers over the Internet, that led to their detection.

If there is a moral in this I guess it is that if you are dealing illegally with someone, make sure he doesn't carry around some old hatred strong enough that he will endanger your illegal conspiracy to get his enemies.


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