Fearing misuse, Israel tightens supervision of cyber exports

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Israel’s Defense Ministry says it is closely monitoring cyber exports – a move that follows a series of scandals involving Israeli spyware company NSO Group

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JERUSALEM – Israel’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday that it is closely monitoring cyber exports – a move that follows a series of scandals involving Israeli spyware company NSO Group.

The ministry said countries that buy Israel’s cyber technology must pledge to use the products “only for the investigation and prevention of terroristic acts and serious crimes”.

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It added that countries that violate the terms of use may be subject to sanctions, “including limiting the cyber system and/or disconnecting it.”

There was no mention of NSO in the announcement. But a few days ago a person familiar with the matter said that 11 US State Department employees had been hacked with NSO spyware. The employees were all based in Uganda and included some Foreign Service officers, said the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation.

This was the first known example of NSO Group’s trademark Pegasus spyware being used against US government personnel.

Last month, the US Commerce Department blacklisted the NSO Group, barring the company from using US technology.

Apple last week sued NSO over the hacking of iPhones and other Apple products, calling the Israeli company “the mercenaries of the 21st century.”

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