Cyprus, Cyberspies and the Dark Side of Israeli Intel

One tactic that strategic consultants, crisis management experts and spin doctors would immediately suggest to help with Tal Dilian’s current plight would be to place a lengthy and flattering fluff piece about him in one of the major papers. But Dilian, a former senior Military Intelligence officer and CEO of spy-tech company WiSpear, probably has little appetite for more press right now. In August, he gave an interview to Forbes Magazine, with the aim of promoting his business. But that plan backfired in spectacular fashion last month, when Dilian was arrested in Cyprus.

– Haaretz Weekly Ep. 54

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Dilian was apprehended while presenting a van that he had outfitted with advanced surveillance equipment. He had proudly talked up this mobile intelligence vehicle, which was immediately confiscated by the police, after that rather unusual Forbes interview. The van, whose price ranges from $5 million to $9 million, has equipment and software that can pull information from cellular and WiFi networks such as WhatsApp chats, Facebook Messenger chats, contact lists, lists of recent calls and messages from any smartphone within a half-kilometer radius.

Dilian is of course furious at the Cypriot authorities, who suspect the equipment was meant to be used in the illegal surveillance of competitors. On Thursday, three employees of WiSpear, which is registered in Cyprus, were arrested as part of the investigation into Dilian. A Larnaca court ordered their release two days later, but The Guardian reports that they are expected to stand trial for violating privacy laws, fraudulently obtaining documents and violating communications laws.

– Forbes on WiSpear