Spy van company fined €76,000

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Ws Wispear Systems Limited, the owner of the ‘spy van’ equipped with sophisticated surveillance technology capable of hacking communications, was handed a €76,000 fine by Larnaca criminal court on Tuesday.

The Israeli company had earlier admitted guilt in 42 charges, including illegal processing of personal data and illegal intervention in private communications.

The initial indictment included some 90 charges, many of which were dropped upon instructions of Attorney General George Savvides.

According to the prosecution, the company had employed spyware installed in a building in Larnaca, the van, and backpacks.

The company admitted to illegally intervening in the private communications of international subscribers and 626 citizens residing on the island.

It also admitted to the distributions of a computer spyware program designed to illegally intercept electronic data, to illegally creating a network of electronic services, using radio frequencies without authorization and the import of equipment that could be used for interception of private communication.

The company also pleaded guilty to 31 charges relating to the processing of citizens’ personal data, whose mobile devices were within range of the company’s equipment, and two charges for false statements during the customs clearance of the spy van.

The offences were committed in 2018-2019.

Charges were also brought against three people, including Tal Dillian, the Israeli CEO of WiSpear Systems Limited, who owned the van.

Dillian was reported to be a former Israeli intelligence officer.

In November last year, legal services dropped all charges against the three individuals arrested in connection with the ‘spy van’.

The case surfaced in 2019 after the spy van had been showcased in a Forbes video story broadcast.

Forbes said the multi-million state-of-the-art equipment in the van could monitor electronic devices within a 500-metre radius, hack any phone and listen in to conversations regardless of the level of encryption.

The equipment on the van was estimated to be worth €9 mln.

At the time, WiSpear was registered in Limassol.

Headed by Dilian, the company specialized in providing end-to-end WiFi interception and security solutions.

Last year, the data protection watchdog imposed an administrative fine of €925,000 on WiSpear for GDPR violations.

The Commissioner for the Protection of Personal Data said WiSpear’s van collected the Media Access Control (MAC) address and International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) of multiple devices.