Two European spyware firms added to US export blacklist

The U.S. Commerce Department added two Europe-based spyware companies to its technology export blacklist on Tuesday for developing surveillance tools deemed to have threatened U.S. national security…

| Updated on: Jul 20 2023, 09:42 IST
Aircraft-sized asteroid and 4 other space rocks racing towards Earth! Close approaches soon
U.S. Commerce Department,
1/5 Asteroid 2023 OA – Asteroid 2023 OA, which is just 58 feet wide, is heading for Earth and will make a close approach today, July 19. This asteroid is heading for Earth at a blistering speed of 26989 kilometers per hour. It will miss Earth at a close distance of 2.3 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
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2/5 Asteroid 2023 NE1 – Asteroid 2023 NE1 will also make its closest approach to Earth today, July 19. In terms of size, it is almost 190 feet wide. As per NASA, it will come as close as 4.8 million kilometers and is already moving at a speed of 20410 kilometers per hour. (Pixabay)
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3/5 Asteroid 2020 OM – Asteroid 2020 OM will make its extremely close approach to the planet tomorrow, July 20. The asteroid, with a width of 44 feet, will approach at a distance of 6 million kilometers and at a speed of nearly 34145 kilometers per hour. (Pixabay)
U.S. Commerce Department,
4/5 Asteroid 2022 GX2 - Asteroid 2022 GX2, is currently heading towards Earth and will pass by Earth tomorrow, July 20. The asteroid is tiny with a width of just 15 feet. It is travelling at almost 33804 kilometers per hour and will make its closest approach at 4.5 million kilometers.  (Pixabay)
U.S. Commerce Department,
5/5 Asteroid 2023 NL –  Yet another asteroid named Asteroid 2023 NL, with a width of nearly 140 feet, will make its closest approach to Earth tomorrow, July 20. The space rock is already rushing towards Earth at a speed of 19664 kilometers per hour and will miss the planet by a distance of 7.3 million kilometers. (Pixabay)
U.S. Commerce Department,
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Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew Axelrod of the U.S. Commerce Department, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, (AP)

The U.S. Commerce Department added two Europe-based spyware companies to its technology export blacklist on Tuesday for developing surveillance tools deemed to have threatened U.S. national security as well as the privacy and integrity of individuals and organizations worldwide.

Such tools are regularly used for political repression and other human rights abuses, including for spying on journalists and intimidating political dissidents.

The sanctioned companies are in Greece-based Intellexa S.A., Hungary-based Cytrox and related entities in Ireland and Macedonia. Intellexa and Cytrox have been linked to Predator spyware, whose reported use in Greece helped precipitate the resignation last year of two top government officials, including the national intelligence director.

Commercial spyware firms already on the Commerce Department's so-called Entity List — essentially making it illegal for U.S. companies to do business with them — include Israel's NSO Group, maker of the much better known Pegasus spyware. It was added in November 2021.

The exact business relationship between Intellexa and Cytrox is unclear and the Commerce Department did not specify it.

Tuesday's blacklisting follows a White House executive order in March that deemed the unchecked proliferation of mercenary spyware a threat to national security. Dozens of U.S. government employees were found to have been targeted with Pegasus.

In December 2021, digital sleuths at the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab discovered Predator spyware on the iPhone of a leading exiled Egyptian dissident. In a joint probe with Facebook,Citizen Lab discovered that Cytrox had customers in countries including Armenia, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Serbia.

Cytrox was at the time part of a shadowy alliance of companies under the umbrella of Intellexa, which was created in 2019 to compete with NSO Group. Its founder was former Israeli military officer Tal Dilian.

A message left for Dilian seeking comment was not immediately returned.

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First Published Date: 20 Jul, 07:13 IST