Iran Using Israeli Spyware

December 23, 2011  

Internet-monitoring software produced in Israel is being used by the Islamic Republic of Iran, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

According to the report, software distributor RanTek in Denmark has been stripping away packaging and labels from products produced by the Israeli company Allot and then re-selling the software to Iran.

Israeli officials say their they were unaware domestically produced systems for tracking Internet traffic were being used by Iran.

The sales violate a strict Israeli ban that prohibits “trading with the enemy,” including any shipments that reach Iran, Syria and Lebanon.

“This covers everything,” Gavriel Bar of Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor told Bloomberg. “Imports, exports, direct, indirect. An Israeli company is not allowed to trade with Iran in any way.”

Allot officials say they didn’t know their software was being redistributed to Iran.

“We do not authorize any sales to Iran,” a spokesman for Allot told Bloomberg, adding that if its products were shipped to Iran by RanTek it would constitute a “breach of contract.”

The spokesman said it is challenging to track where its products go after they’ve been sold – noting they sometimes appear on eBay.

Technology experts, however, say scanning the Internet for systems running technologies like those produced by Allot is rapidly becoming an industry standard. Western companies have uncovered numerous cases where their software was redistributed to countries that used it to track and spy on dissidents – including Iran, Bahrain, Syria and Tunisia.

Remote shut-downs for such systems have also started to come into vogue as a means of combating software piracy and use of deep-packet inspection (DPI) and email snooping systems by oppressive regimes.

Allot executives say the software that reached Iran was best suited for managing a company’s internal Internet traffic and lacked the capacity for wide-scale Internet surveillance.

But industry observers say the widespread abuse of such software in violating human rights by dictatorial regimes is well-known. Any such software should be designed with safe-guards in place, they say.

“I cannot conceive a way that DPI could be exported to Iran without a concern,” Ben Wagner, of the European University Institute in Italy, told Bloomberg.

Security analysts say the honor system Israeli software companies are on isn’t working and a system of export licensing with tighter restrictions – like the one that exists for weapons sales – may be necessary to fix the problem.

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