The Israeli Ministry of Defense has drastically reduced the number of countries to which Israeli cybersecurity businesses are permitted to sell offensive hacking and surveillance equipment, excluding 65 countries from the export list.
The amended list, first reported by the Israeli business newspaper Calcalist, now includes only 37 countries, down from the previous 102: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S.
Countries such as Morocco, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, which have previously been named as customers of Israeli spyware vendor NSO Group, are conspicuously absent from the list. By limiting exports, the move effectively makes it more difficult for domestic cybersecurity firms to advertise their software to nations with totalitarian regimes or a history of human rights violations.
The Saudis are accused of using NSO’s Pegasus malware to track Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was slain at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. Mexico is likewise suspected of employing monitoring equipment on journalists and activists.
However, India remains on the new list despite being accused of employing NSO technology on journalists, opposition lawmakers, and activists.
The action follows the Commerce Department’s addition of NSO Group and Candiru to its trade blacklist for developing and supplying sophisticated interception or intrusion capabilities to foreign governments, which then used the spy tools to target journalists, activists, dissidents, academics, and government officials around the world.
Apple responded with its own salvo earlier this week, filing a lawsuit against NSO Group and its parent company Q Cyber Technologies for illegally targeting its users with Pegasus, military-grade spyware designed to harvest sensitive personal and geolocation information while also secretly activating the phones’ cameras and microphones.
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