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Cyber ​​espionage: Joe Biden is asked to “blacklist” an Israeli company

Democratic lawmakers in Washington asked the Joe Biden administration to consider placing NSO Group, the Israeli company that sold software equipment to autocratic governments to monitor opposition, ministers, opponents and journalists, “on an export blacklist.” .

They said that recent revelations of misuse of the Pegasus system reinforced their belief that “the hacking industry must be controlled,” according to the newspaper. The Guardian From london.

The statement was released by four influential lawmakers: Tom Malinowski from New Jersey, Katie Porter and Anna Eshoo from California, and Joaquin Castro from Texas.

The pronouncement of the four members of the United States Congress represents an imminent potential threat to the business, including possible Congressional investigations or actions by the Biden administration.

“Private companies should not sell sophisticated cyber intrusion tools on the open market, and the United States should work with its allies to regulate this trade,” lawmakers said.

“The companies that sell tools so incredibly sensitive to dictatorships are the AQ Khans of the cyber world. They should be sanctioned and, if necessary, closed, “they argued.

They added that NSO had shown “arrogant disregard for concerns that elected officials, human rights activists, journalists and cybersecurity experts have repeatedly raised.”

They also singled out authoritarian governments such as Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Rwanda, which are believed to have used NSO spyware and “make no distinction between terrorism and peaceful dissent,” according to The Guardian.

“How to sell weapons to the mafia”

“Selling the spyware of those governments based on guarantees of responsible use,” added the legislators, was like “selling weapons to the mafia and believing that they will only be used for target practice.”

NSO has said that it reviews its clients’ human rights records before selling spyware to them and that you don’t know how customers use your products once sold.

The statement represented a rare reprimand to an Israeli company by members of the US Congress, who suggested that the NSO Group should join “the ranks of blacklisted companies” such as China’s Huawei and Hikvision.

Any decision to add NSO to what is known as the “entity list”, forcing it to comply with the new export rules, would be made by the Commerce Department of the Biden administration.

Pointing to media reports of the Pegasus project, lawmakers called on authorities to “investigate and assess possible attacks against Americans,” including journalists, humanitarian workers, diplomats and others, by government clients using the software. Pegasus from NSO.

They said the federal government needed to determine “whether US national security may have been harmed” by the deployment of spyware.

The journalist killed by Saudi Arabia Jamal Kashogui was living in the United States as a resident when he began to be watched, before being dismembered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Espionage and scandal

The lawmakers’ statement followed reports from the Pegasus project, a collaboration of 17 media organizations, including The Guardian, which investigated NSO, the Israeli company that sells its powerful surveillance software to government customers around the world.

The leak at the heart of the Pegasus project contained tens of thousands of phone numbers people, believed to have been selected as candidates for possible surveillance by NSO clients.

The figures included those of heads of state such as French President Emmanuel Macron, government ministers, diplomats, activists, journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

The examinations of the devices were carried out by Amnesty International’s security laboratory in Berlin.

When NSO’s Pegasus spyware infects a phone, government customers can access a person’s phone conversations, messages, photos and location, as well as turning the phone into a portable listening device by manipulating its recorder.

The leak contains a list of more than 50,000 phone numbers believed to have been identified as “persons of concern” by NSO customers since 2016.

The appearance of a number in the leaked list does not mean that you have been the subject of a successful hacking attempt. NSO said Macron was not a “target” of any of its clients. Which means that the company denies that there was an attempt or a successful Pegasus infection on your phone.

NSO has also said that the data is “not relevant” to the company. He has dismissed the Pegasus project reports as “full of erroneous assumptions and unsubstantiated theories.”

The Israeli company denied that the leaked data represented those who were under surveillance. by the Pegasus software. And he said the number of 50,000 “is over the top” and too large to represent Pegasus’ target people.

The company has also said that its government clients are contractually mandated to use Pegasus to target “suspected criminals and terrorists” and has said it would investigate any allegations of abuse.

Paris, correspondent

CB​

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