US will halt visas of anyone involved in spyware

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People involved in the creation and propagation of commercial spyware will not be granted any kind of US visa, the nation's government has confirmed. 

The new visa restriction policy was confirmed by Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, who noted, "the State Department is implementing a new policy today that will allow the imposition of visa restrictions on individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware."

"Such targeting has been linked to arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings in the most egregious of cases. Additionally, the misuse of these tools presents a security and counterintelligence threat to U.S. personnel."

Fighting Pegasus

Simultaneously, the Biden Administration also issued an Executive Order with which the government agencies are not allowed to use mercenary surveillance tools that can be risky for both foreign policy interests, and national security, BleepingComputer reports. 

The US government has been quite vocal in its fight against commercial spyware, and has made an example out of Pegasus.

Pegasus is a commercial piece of spyware developed by the Israeli startup NGO Group. In 2021 and 2022, it was reported that many governments around the world have been using Pegasus to keep tabs on political opponents, dissidents, journalists, human rights activists, and similar. In April 2022, even the UK government was reportedly hit by the malware, as well as certain senior EU officials.

The US Government has thus placed NGO Group, but also Positive Technologies (a Russian company allegedly helping state-sponsored threat actors in the SolarWinds fiasco - something PT denies) on its blacklist. Furthermore, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has called for a blanket ban on the use of Pegasus spyware throughout the European Union, back in 2022.

NSO claims it only sells its tools to governments, and that they’re used exclusively for the purpose of tackling terrorism, and similar threats to national security.

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Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.