United States Blacklists Israeli Firm for Pegasus Spyware

United States Commerce Department has put Israel’s NSO Group and Candiru on its trade blacklist and claimed they provided spyware to other governments who used it to target government officials, journalists, and others.

Positive Technologies, based in Russia, and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE LTD, based in Singapore, were also among the companies mentioned.

According to the Department, they dealt in cyber tools that were used to obtain unauthorized access to computer networks.

Because the corporations were added to the list for participating in acts that are harmful to US national security or foreign policy objectives, US counterparts can no longer export to them.

For example, it makes it far more difficult for the United States’ security researchers to sell them data about computer flaws.

A US State Department spokesperson said, “We are not taking action against countries or governments where these entities are located.”

Before selling to them, suppliers will need to apply for a license, which is likely to be denied. Candiru and the NSO Group have been accused of selling hacking tools to totalitarian nations in the past. NSO claims that it only sells its goods to law enforcement and intelligence organizations and that it takes measures to prevent misuse.

The decision “dismayed” NSO because its technology helps US national security objectives and policies by avoiding terrorism and criminality, and thus we will push for this decision to be reversed, according to a company representative.

Reuters reports: NSO said it will give information about its “rigorous” compliance and human rights practices, “which already resulted in multiple terminations of contacts with government agencies that misused our products.”

NSO’s export licenses are granted by the Israeli defense ministry, which has declined to comment on the topic.

Candiru’s contact information was unavailable. Positive Technologies, a Russian cybersecurity firm, was sanctioned by the Biden administration this year for giving help to Russian security services. Any impropriety on the part of the corporation is denied.

Positive Technologies and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE LTD, also known as COSEINC, did not respond to calls for comment immediately. Positive Technologies, according to a former US official acquainted with the company who spoke on the condition of anonymity, assisted in the establishment of computer infrastructure used in Russian cyber attacks on US organizations.

Thomas Lim, the creator of COSEINC, is notable for organizing the SyScan security conference, which was sold to the sanctioned Chinese technology giant Qihoo 360. Lim had previously offered to sell hacking tools to known Italian spyware outfit HackingTeam, according to an email disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2015.

Lim did not react to a request for comment submitted to one of his social media accounts.

According to export control specialists, the classification could have considerably more consequences for the corporations listed than simply limiting their access to US technology.

Many corporations choose to avoid doing business with listed entities entirely to minimize the danger of an unintended violation and the expenditures of completing extensive legal studies, Kevin Wolf, a former assistant secretary of Commerce for Export Administration during the Obama administration, stated.

During the Trump administration, the entity list was increasingly used for national security and international policy purposes. Huawei, a Chinese telecom corporation, was put on the list in 2019, thus cutting it off from certain major US suppliers and making it harder for it to make mobile handsets.

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