December 23, 2011 | By Jillian York

Israeli Firm Allot Communications Ltd Under Fire for Selling Spyware to Iran

"Israeli spy gear sent to Iran via Denmark," reads the headline from Israeli paper YNet News.  Today, yet another breaking story of a high-tech company selling spyware to an authoritarian regime emerged. As a  detailed report by Bloomberg News' Ben Elgin--who has made a name for himself this year reporting on the surveillance industrial complex--explains, Israeli company Allot Communications Ltd. clandestinely sold its product NetEnforcer to Iran by way of Denmark.

Although one report, from Israeli news site Haaretz, claims that NetEnforcer can be used to conduct deep packet inspection, the company denies this, stating that "[NetEnforcer] is not designed for intrusive surveillance purposes. Its intent is to optimize internet traffic for Enterprises and Internet service providers by identifying and prioritizing applications. Our equipment lacks any capability to analyze or extract knowledge on the actual content of internet traffic."  Nevertheless, NetEnforcer can be used to track, block, and filter various types of applications.  It can also be used for URL redirection.

Israeli companies are prohibited from all types of transactions with Iran.  According to Bloomberg, three former sales employees for Allot claim that "it was well known inside the company that the equipment was headed for Iran."  According to The Marker (a publication of Haaretz) [he], if that can be proven to a judge in an Israeli court, the company could face up to seven years in prison, as well as a fine of up to six million NIS.

The Allot case is reminiscent of that of American company BlueCoat, which earlier this year was found to have sold to Syria via a third country.  Like Allot, BlueCoat could be found liable for the sale if it was made knowingly, due to regulations placed on the sale of certain technology to Syria under the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.  In both cases, bans on trade failed, bringing into question the effectiveness of existing regulations.

Companies selling spyware to foreign regimes have long relied on the "get out of jail free" card of claiming they were unaware of their company's customers.  This is no longer acceptable.  Companies must know their customer and must be held responsible for their actions.

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