U.S. Blacklists 2 People And 3 Companies Linked To Commercial Spyware

The Biden administration is taking action against the misuse of commercial spyware by imposing sanctions on two individuals and five entities associated with a spyware consortium. This move highlights the growing concern over the security threat posed by such activities.

The U.S. Treasury took action on Tuesday by blacklisting two executives and three companies connected to Intellexa Consortium. According to the federal agency, Intellexa Consortium serves as a marketing label for various offensive cyber companies that provide commercial spyware and surveillance tools for conducting targeted and mass surveillance campaigns.

The consortium has been accused by the Treasury of facilitating the spread of commercial spyware globally, including to authoritarian regimes. The Predator spyware, in particular, has been utilized by foreign actors to conduct surveillance on U.S. government officials, journalists, and policy experts.

“In a statement, Brian Nelson, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, expressed that today’s actions signify a significant move towards deterring the improper use of commercial surveillance tools. These tools pose an escalating security threat to both the United States and its citizens.”

The United States is committed to establishing clear guidelines for the responsible development and use of these technologies, while also ensuring the protection of human rights and civil liberties for individuals worldwide.

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The individuals who were sanctioned on Tuesday are Tal Jonathan Dilian, the 62-year-old founder of the Intellexa Consortium, and Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou, a 39-year-old corporate off-shoring specialist who has been providing managerial services to the company. Tal Jonathan Dilian is an Israeli citizen with dual citizenship in Israel and Malta, while Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou was born in Poland but currently resides in Cyprus.

Intellexa S.A., a software development company based in Greece, where Hamou holds a leadership position, was blacklisted for its involvement in the consortium, along with Intellexa Limited, based in Ireland.

In July, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Entity List included both Intellexa S.A. and Intellexa Limited.

The Biden administration has been actively working to implement both domestic and international safeguards against the use of commercial spyware. These tools, known for their invasive and powerful capabilities, have been used to target and intimidate political opponents, curtail the freedom of expression and assembly, and facilitate various human rights violations.

President Joe Biden took a significant step last year by signing an executive order that banned the use of commercial spyware by the U.S. government. This decision was made to address the potential risks it poses to national security and foreign policy interests.

The United States, along with 10 other democratic nations, has issued a joint statement announcing their collaboration to counter commercial spyware.

Earlier this month, the U.S. State Department made an announcement regarding new powers that allow them to impose visa restrictions on foreign nationals who misuse commercial spyware.

The Treasury announced on Tuesday that this move aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s comprehensive initiative to address the dangers associated with commercial spyware and to implement strong safeguards against its misuse.

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