Pegasus snooping: US blacklists spyware maker NSO Group for maliciously targetting journalists

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Nov 04, 2021, 12:44 PM(IST)

An Israeli woman walks in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The department has accused the NSO Group of conducting 'transnational repression' and selling its spyware to foreign governments that used the equipment to target government officials

The United States Commerce Department has blacklistsed NSO, the maker of Israeli spyware Pegasus for maliciously targetting journalists.

According to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, ''The United States is committed to aggressively using export controls to hold companies accountable that develop, traffic, or use technologies to conduct malicious activities that threaten the cybersecurity of members of civil society, dissidents, government officials, and organisations here and abroad.''

The department has accused the firm of conducting ''transnational repression'' and selling its spyware to foreign governments that used the equipment to target government officials.

In response, the NSO said it was ''dismayed by the decision given that our technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime, and thus we will advocate for this decision to be reversed.''

''We look forward to presenting the full information regarding how we have the world's most rigorous compliance and human rights programmes that are based [on] the American values we deeply share.''

Also read | Five French Ministers targeted by Israel's Pegasus spyware, says report

Russia's Positive Technologies and Singapore's Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE LTD have also been added to the ''entity list'' by the US Commerce Department.

The Biden administration has ramped up its efforts to promote human rights to make it the centre of US foreign policy.

Researchers have found several examples of NSO Group tools using so-called ''zero-click'' exploits that infect targeted mobile phones without any user interaction.

Also read | Israel's National Security Council 'looking into' NSO Pegasus spyware allegations

Pegasus infiltrates phones to vacuum up personal and location data and surreptitiously controls the smartphone’s microphones and cameras

The company is also being sued by Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly targeting some 1,400 users of its encrypted messaging service WhatsApp with its spyware.

In 2019, Chinese telecom company Huawei was added to the blacklist, cutting it off from some key US suppliers and making it difficult for them to produce mobile handsets.

(With inputs from agencies)

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