US sanctions NSO Group, others, for trafficking spyware and exploits

Daniel Sims

Posts: 227   +11
Staff
In brief: The US Department of Commerce this week announced it's sanctioning four groups for their roles in spying on and otherwise maliciously targeting people like journalists and academics online. They include the controversial NSO Group and three other entities from Israel, Russia, and Singapore.

The Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is updating its list of sanctioned entities with a document it plans to fully publish on Thursday, but is viewable in a PDF now. It claims all four groups are engaged in activities "contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States."

Most famous of these is the Israeli NSO Group. The BIS document specifically points it out for developing spyware it then supplied to governments to target people such as journalists, academics, embassy workers, and activists. The document names fellow Israeli group Candiru alongside NSO in those charges.

Last year it was reported that NSO was making spyware to track the spread of the Coronavirus. In September of this year, however, Apple had to issue a security update for all its operating systems to patch an exploit NSO's software had been using since February to spy on people. NSO's "Pegasus" spyware, a "zero-click exploit," could penetrate an Apple device by simply sending a text without the device's user doing anything. It could access things on an iPhone like the camera, microphone, or device settings.

The BIS document also names Russian group Positive Technologies and Singaporean group Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD., as entities that traffic cyber exploits. In 2017, Positive Technologies identified a massive security hole that affected Intel CPUs. The US Treasury Department previously sanctioned Positive Technologies for allegedly helping Russian intelligence services conduct cyber attacks against the US.

This mean exports or in-country transfers of items related to these entities will require a license from the End-User Review Committee. Those licenses for sanctioned entities will fall under a "presumption of denial," so they'll automatically be denied except for in special circumstances.

The US Department of Commerce recently banned sales of hacking software to the governments of "countries of concern."

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ypsylon

Posts: 436   +379
I'm sure all the tyrants in the World who use Pegasus tremble in terror of this action.

Oh wait US is also on the list of customers. Awkward...

So just out of curiosity will USA enforce that allied dictatorships like Saudis, Turkey or Poland stop spying/jailing/murdering its own people? Asking for a friend.
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 728   +534
I'm sure all the tyrants in the World who use Pegasus tremble in terror of this action.

Oh wait US is also on the list of customers. Awkward...

So just out of curiosity will USA enforce that allied dictatorships like Saudis, Turkey or Poland stop spying/jailing/murdering its own people? Asking for a friend.

Poland ?? - I know it's highly nationalistic - most of the former eastern bloc were - anti-refugee etc , probably anti-gay - but this is news to me .

Ever since The USA - got rid of is Isolation stance - mainly from WWII on - it has been actively killing around the world , cold war , punishing the weak and poor - if they do not agree with that countries leaders. Loved the old Iran, Cuba , Saddam Hussein , Osama Bin Laden . Ran drugs out of the Golden Triangle & Central America to finance stuff - sold weapons to enemies of the USA when it suited them- also done to fund despots elsewhere .
With held AID - if countries didn't follow Christian Fundamentalists - ie sex education , making condoms available - NO NO - no aid for you - Women are property and for breeding - rape = what's that - that's a gift from the heavens .

Just be thankful those fundamentalists have limited power - book burning , anti-science , education - why they watch just as much porn as others etc - have secret abortions