US bans maker of spyware used to target government officials and journalists

The Treasury Department has banned the maker of spyware used to target government officials, reporters, and activists, and imposed “first-of-its-kind” sanctions against commercial spyware vendors.

US government to publish The United States imposed sanctions on Intellexa, a Greece-based spyware vendor, on Tuesday and the company's leadership after US officials were targeted.

“Today’s actions represent a tangible step forward in discouraging the misuse of commercial surveillance tools, which represents a growing security risk to the United States and our citizens,” said Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

The Treasury Department targeted two individuals and five entities associated with Intellexa for their roles “in developing, operating, and distributing commercial spyware technology” used to target policy experts, reporters, human rights activists, and government officials.

Tuesday's announcement marks the first time the United States has imposed sanctions on a commercial spyware entity. The technology has faced increasing scrutiny over its ability to collect data, contact lists and recordings without the phone owner's knowledge.

The sanctions prevent US companies and residents from doing business with companies and individuals on the list, including Intellexa founder Jonathan Dillian and Sarah Alexandra Faisal Hamo, one of the consortium's directors.

Intellexa Consortium's Predator software has been sold to numerous governments around the world. They charge customers millions of dollars for their software, according to documents published Amnesty International in 2022.

The sanctions follow President Biden's executive order last March banning the use of commercial spyware across the federal government.

“The United States remains focused on creating clear barriers to the development and responsible use of these technologies while ensuring that the human rights and civil liberties of individuals around the world are protected,” Nelson said.

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