US blacklists Israeli maker of Pegasus spyware

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Washington

United States authorities on Wednesday put the Israeli maker of the Pegasus spyware which was at the centre of a scandal over surveillance of journalists and officials on a blacklist of restricted companies.

The company, NSO, was engulfed in controversy over reports that tens of thousands of human rights activists, journalists, politicians

and business executives worldwide were listed as potential targets of its Pegasus software.

Smartphones infected with Pegasus are essentially turned into pocket spying devices, allowing the user to read the target’s messages, look through their photos, track their location and even turn on their camera without them knowing.

“These tools have enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign borders to silence dissent,” the US Commerce Department said in a statement.

NSO fired back at the decision, saying its “technologies support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime”.

“We will advocate for this decision to be reversed,” a NSO spokesperson told AFP, adding its compliance controls have resulted in “multiple terminations of contacts with government agencies that misused our products”.

 

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