Spyware ban for US government personnel
US President Joe Biden has signed an executive order prohibiting the operational use of commercial spyware that threatens US national security or has been misused by bad actors and hostile states.
The new law comes after at least 50 government employees were targeted with spyware, according to a senior official.
An executive order directs federal agencies to exercise powers granted under law and create a legal obligation that the president can impose on agencies, and, in some cases private parties.
In this case it means that US government personnel cannot use commercial spyware that has already been used by a foreign government or person to gain access to the US government, or if they have a poor human rights background.
According to a senior official that spoke to Reuters, new executive order is designed to apply pressure on the secretive spyware industry by placing new restrictions on US government defence, law enforcement and intelligence agencies purchasing decisions.
Over a year ago, the Biden administration imposed sanctions on the Israeli spyware manufacturer NSO Group.
The Israeli firm had been accused of misusing its spyware, called Pegasus, on iPhones and had lawsuits filed against it from big tech firms Apple and Meta.
“The proliferation of commercial spyware poses distinct and growing counterintelligence and security risks to the Unites States, including to the safety and security of the US Government personnel and their families,” the White House said in a statement.
“US Government personnel overseas have been targeted by commercial spyware, and untrustworthy commercial vendors and tools can present significant risks to the security and integrity of the US Government information systems.”
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