The Biden administration on Wednesday added Israeli tech and spyware firm NSO Group to the Commerce Department’s Entity List, a blacklist of foreign people and enterprises facing restrictions on their business in the U.S. because of national security concerns.
“NSO Group and Candiru (Israel) were added to the Entity List based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers,” the Commerce Department said in a statement. “These tools have also 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 Biden administration’s crackdown on NSO Group comes after revelations about the firm’s sale of a product called Pegasus that allowed access to a smartphone user’s messages, camera and microphone without action by the victim, according to the Pegasus Project, a collaborative investigation organized by the news outlet Forbidden Stories.
The NSO Group said in a statement that it will push for the Biden administration to change the firm’s blacklisting and that it would present “full information” regarding its programs involving compliance and human rights.
“NSO Group is dismayed by the decision given that our technologies support U.S. national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime, and thus we will advocate for this decision to be reversed,” an NSO spokesperson said in a statement.
Others added to the blacklist on Wednesday included Positive Technologies in Russia and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE LTD in Singapore. The federal government determined that the firms “traffic in cyber tools used to gain unauthorized access to information systems.”