Lawmakers urge Biden administration to sanction NSO Group and other cyber-surveillance companies

The letter, written by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Speaker of the House of Representatives Adam Schiff of California, asks the Treasury Department to sanction Israeli spyware supplier NSO Group, Emirati cybersecurity firm DarkMatter and European surveillance firms Nexa Technologies and Trovicor – as well as the company’s top executives.

Lawmakers allege that the private market for hacking tools used to spy on journalists and diplomats is already active and they want the Biden administration to expand its crackdown on intrusive software .

The following letter this month’s report from Reuters and CNN that the iPhones of about a dozen State Department employees have been hacked with powerful spyware created by the NSO Group. The company said in an earlier statement that it had cut “relevant customer access” to its systems and was investigating the matter.

In an emailed statement to CNN, a spokesperson for NSO Group said it contributes to US national security interests and investigations, and terminates contracts with suspected customers. violate their policies. Trovicor and Nexa Technologies did not respond to requests for comment. DarkMatter could not be reached for comment.

The Treasury Department declined to comment.

The Biden administration has moved to restrict sales of hacking tools while pledging to make human rights a key tenet of US cybersecurity policy. The Ministry of Commerce has go to block NSO Group and three other companies – Candiru, Positive Technologies and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy – do business with US technology companies.

Democratic lawmakers want the administration to go further.

“These custodian companies are dependent on the US financial system and US-based investors,” the lawmakers wrote in letters to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. especially when they eventually want to raise billions of dollars by listing on the stock market.”

Lawmakers called on the Biden administration to impose sanctions using the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a law that gives the president the authority to sanction human rights violators serious.

Reuters first report on the letter.

NSO Group, the best known of the four, has been sued by Apple and Facebook for allegedly violating US anti-hacking laws. NSO Group denies the allegations. Cybersecurity researchers have documented years of government accusations of abusing NSO Group spyware. The spyware is said to have been found on the phones of journalists and human rights workers from Mexico to Morocco.

NSO Group says it only sells its tools to customers who have been tested for law enforcement and counterterrorism purposes, and investigates allegations of abuse of its software.

Nexa Technologies has sold surveillance technology to the governments of Egypt and Libya, while the government represses Bahrain as an alleged customer of Trovicor, according to the lawmakers’ letter.

The number of people about spyware has become more concentrated in recent months through US court documents.

DarkMatter helped set up a cyber espionage program for the United Arab Emirates government, Reuters reports. report. The surveillance targets included Americans, according to cost filed by the Justice Department in September against Marc Baier, Ryan Adams and Daniel Gericke – three former US military and intelligence agents accused of involvement in the program.
A prominent Saudi activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, last week to sue DarkMatter, Baier, Adams and Gericke in US federal court, allege three men hacked her iPhone, which led to her detention in the UAE and transfer to Saudi Arabia, where she was imprisoned and torture.

Attorneys for Baier, Adams and Gericke in the case brought by the Justice Department did not immediately respond to voicemails and emails seeking comment Wednesday.


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