Six indicted over Population Registry data theft

Former Social Affairs Ministry contractor allegedly stole database, passed it to haredi charity, from where it was sold abroad.

May 13, 2012 12:33
4 minute read.
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hacking hackers computer hacking [illustrative]_370. (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)

The Tel Aviv district attorney on Sunday charged six people, including a computer programmer formerly employed as a Welfare and Social Services Ministry contractor, in connection with a massive data theft that exposed the personal details of millions of Israelis.

According to the indictment, filed in the Tel Aviv District Court, 55-year-old Shalom Bilik had access to the population registry database as part of his contract computer maintenance work in the Welfare and Social Services Ministry’s information systems department. In 2005- 2006, during his time at the ministry, Bilik began to make copies of the population registry data and sold it, the indictment said.

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As a result of the data theft, detailed personal information on 9 million Israelis, among them minors, deceased persons and citizens living abroad, was exposed to publication, including on various overseas websites and file sharing sites.

Allegedly, as well as copying the database, Bilik also copied monthly population registry data updates that the Interior Ministry sent to the Welfare and Social Services Ministry. In 2005, before his contract at the ministry ended, Bilik allegedly took a copy of the stolen data to a haredi (ultra-Orthodox) organization in Jerusalem, where he provided database services connected with the organization’s donors.

Bilik copied the stolen database onto the organization’s computer, together with a program he had written while at the ministry, which allowed users to create queries to retrieve information from the database, the indictment said.

Indicted alongside Bilik are Avraham Adam, 36; Yosef Vitman, 32; Haim Aharon, 37; Moshe Moskovitz, 44; and Meir Leiver, 29.

Adam, who worked at the haredi organization, allegedly used the stolen data after Bilik gave it him. He converted the data into a Microsoft Access database and created a user interface for extracting data, the indictment charges.

Allegedly, Adam passed a copy of the data on to Vitman, a volunteer at the organization.

According to the indictment, Vitman kept a copy of the database, but sold another copy for NIS 2,000 to the third defendant, Aharon.

Aharon, an independent computer consultant, merged the stolen database with a copy of the national voter register for the 17th Knesset and data from around eleven other databases, the indictment said.

Aharon then gave copies of the combined database, which he named “Mirsham” (“Prescription”) to several people, and sold copies to tens of other people, for thousands of shekels each, the indictment charges.

According to the indictment, Aharon also charged customers around NIS 150 to carry out searches on the data.

One of the people to whom Aharon allegedly gave a copy of the stolen database was the fourth defendant, Moskovitz, an amateur computer programmer.

Moskovitz, the indictment said, enhanced the database with a sophisticated search program he had written, and renamed it “Agron Plus 2006.” Allegedly, Moskowitz then sold the stolen database on to many people for several hundred shekels each. Moskowitz’s software allegedly allowed users to build and perform complex searches on the data. Among the data fields included for search on Agron Plus 2006 for each of its 9.2 million names were ID number, full address, father’s and mother’s ID numbers, marital status and gender, the indictment said.

The Agron software allegedly also included a search program that allowed users to determine extended family relations of any Israeli in the database.

Moskowitz password-protected the database, the indictment alleges, to prevent others from duplicating it.

However, the indictment said, a user managed to crack the password and made several copies of the database, one of which ended up in the hands of the sixth defendant, Leiver.

By June 2007, copies of the database were also found on various Internet sites, the indictment said.

Leiver allegedly renamed his cracked copy of the database “aRi” before posting it to several overseas Internet sites, and encouraging large numbers of Internet users to download the database from those Internet sites and copy it for free, the indictment charges.

Eventually, the cracked software found its way onto other websites and file-sharing sites around the world.

The indictment charges the six men with various offenses under the Privacy Protection Law, which attract a maximum five-year prison sentence.

In addition, Bilik is also charged under the Penal Code with removal of a document from custody and passing it to a third party, which attracts a maximum five-year prison term.

Leiver is also charged with destroying evidence, after allegedly attempting to disrupt the investigation by deleting computer files.

Alongside the indictment, the Tel Aviv district attorney also filed a request that the trial be held in closed court, and that a gag order be imposed on the defendants’ testimony.

The request argues that details of the Interior Ministry’s databases and database security and all witness testimony relating to it should be kept secret to avoid any further data breaches.

Separately from the offenses relating to the population registry database, Bilik is also charged with copying Israeli adoption databases and taking the sensitive information home.

The adoption databases were kept completely separate from the population registry databases, and were not connected to each other. However, Bilik had access to both databases because he was in charge of their maintenance, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, data Bilik copied and stole included all personal information regarding children up for adoption and their biological parents, including their dates of birth, their ID number, their biological parents’ ID numbers, occupations, addresses, full names, home telephone numbers, religions and birth years.

Also included in the stolen data was detailed personal information relating to adults wishing to adopt.

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