Israeli private investigators guilty in spyware case

Four members of Modi'in Ezrahi, an Israeli private investigation company have been found guilty of using spyware to steal information from businesses.

The private investigators used a Trojan horse designed by a London-based couple, Michael and Ruth Haephrati, to allegedly spy on and steal information from companies including HOT, a cable television group and Rani Rahav PR agency.

According to reports, three of the investigation firm's employees were given jail terms ranging from nine months to 19 months. Yitzhak Rett, former CEO of Modi'in Ezrahi, was fined 250,000 Israeli Shekels (£36,500) and sentenced to ten months on parole after admitting the offences under a plea bargain.

Israeli authorities first uncovered the industrial espionage plot in 2005 and believe Modi'in Ezrahi is one of a number of firms involved.

Businesses need to be aware of the methods used by agencies offering information on their rivals, according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

"Regular cybercriminals may be attempting to steal your employees' credit card details, but spyware can also be used for corporate espionage designed to steal your business plans and customer databases. Firms should be on their guard and have proper defences in place to avoid falling foul of this kind of attack," he said.

Michael and Ruth Haephrati were fined and sentenced to two and four year jail terms respectively by a court in Israel in 2006.