The Biden administration and U.S. Department of Commerce have added spyware makers NSO Group and Candiru to a trade blacklist, saying in a statement on Wednesday that the firms had sold cyberarms to foreign governments that used them “to maliciously target” critics, dissidents, and enemies. NSO is the Israeli company behind the creation of the military-grade software Pegasus, which was revealed earlier this year to have been used to infiltrate the phones of government officials, journalists, activists, and others. The company has maintained that it sells the weapon only to fight terrorism and serious crime.
NSO and Candiru’s software “also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression,” the statement noted, permitting cross-border surveillance of critics in a way that “threaten the rules-based international order.” The companies added to the entity list on Wednesday included firms based in Russia and Singapore, which were accused by Washington of trafficking “in cyber tools” that allowed them to gain unauthorized access to computer systems. The four groups implicated posed “a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the statement said.