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Israel jails spyware-for-hire couple

Dirty deeds done dirt cheap

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An Israeli couple were jailed on Monday after confessing to the development and sale of spyware that helped private investigators snoop on their clients' business competitors.

Ruth Brier-Haephrati, 28, was jailed four years while her husband Michael Haephrati, 44, was sentenced to two years imprisonment. Both sentences were in line with a plea-bargaining agreement made earlier this month. Ruth was charged with a litany of offences including fraud, planting computer viruses, and conspiracy. Her husband, Michael, was charged as her accomplice to those offences. Each also faces a suspended sentence and a fine of one million New Israeli Shekels ($212K).

Investigators allege the duo developed and sold customised spyware or Trojan horse packages designed to evade detection by security tools to three private investigation companies in Israel - Modi'in Ezrahi, Zvi Krochmal, and Philosof-Balali. This spyware code was allegedly installed on victims' PCs by private detectives from a diskette or via email, as part of a spying scam that ran for up to two years.

The malware sent stolen documents to an FTP site, allowing unscrupulous firms to swipe confidential documents from rivals. Each software installation allegedly netted the Haephratis 2,000 New Israeli Shekels ($425). According to court documents, Michael Haephrati developed the spyware Trojan horse, while his wife, Ruth, marketed the software. ®

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