Israel fears IBM's Cairo office compromised anti-missile system

Monday, February 16, 2004

TEL AVIV Israel's military is investigating new software provided for the Arrow-2 amid concerns that Egypt has infiltrated the Israeli-U.S. missile defense program.

Israeli defense and industry sources say Israel's Defense Ministry has ordered a review of software and designs provided by IBM's division in Cairo that might have penetrated the classified Arrow-2 program.

The Egyptian firm was consulted IBM's Israel office on new software provided to enhance Arrow-2 batteries. Israel has deployed two Arrow-2 batteries and plans to set up a third such facility.

Officials were said to have been concerned that the Egyptian firm might have provided components of a new software program meant to enhance the Arrow's radar and fire control system.

The concern was that the program was infected with a bug meant to prevent the battery from operating during an enemy ballistic missile attack.

The ministry was also said to have ordered a complete review of the software in the Arrow. Officials said that so far there has been no evidence that the Egyptian firm relayed anything that could sabotage the Arrow-2 system.

IBM has confirmed that it conducted what it termed a comprehensive examination of the software for the Arrow. The company said no bugs were found.

"We particularly wish to emphasize that no IBM software package provided to the defense establishment was exposed to the infiltration of unwanted and unplanned elements," IBM Israel said in a statement. "We want to emphasize that our activities are fully coordinated with the defense establishment."

Egypt has regarded the Arrow-2 program as a strategic boost in Israel's defense. Over the last decade, Cairo has been developing a series of medium- and intermediate-range missiles, some of them with help from North Korea.

Since 1999, the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces have prepared for the prospect that Iran and Arab intelligence services would try to insert bugs and so-called trojan horses into programs required by Israel's military. Officials said several Middle East adversaries of Israel have been researching ways to disable Israeli military platforms, some of which rely on commercial software.

The report on the Defense Ministry's review of the Arrow-2 program was first published in the Israeli daily Maariv on Feb. 13. The newspaper said the Egyptian office of IBM was involved in developing software for enhancement of the Arrow-2. The contract was provided to IBM Israel but some of the software development was relayed to the Egyptian office without the knowledge of the Defense Ministry.

The newspaper identified the Arrow-2 software program as MOTIF, which operates the missile battery. Maariv said the next generation of MOTIF was written by IBM Egypt and meant for installation in the Israeli missile defense battery.

The sources said the ministry ordered the severance of all contact between IBM in Tel Aviv and Cairo regarding the MOTIF program. The ministry and the Israeli Air Force have refused to comment on the report.

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