Israel has quietly reduced the number of countries to which its companies may sell hacking tools and spyware amid ongoing criticism from its allies over how those technologies are being used.
Calcalist reports that Israeli companies are now restricted to selling cyberweapons to democratic countries throughout Europe, members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, and the like. The Record says this brings those companies’ potential customers down from 102 countries to 37.
These restrictions follow the US Department of Commerce’s addition of two Israeli companies, NSO Group and Candiru, to the Entity List. Being put on that list makes it far more difficult for those companies to access technologies and products created by American businesses.
The Commerce Department says it acted “based on evidence that these entities developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments that used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers.”
Those allegations have been levied against the companies—particularly NSO Group—for years. But they came to a head in July when a consortium of organizations led by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International published a series of reports on the company’s Pegasus spyware.
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The resulting scrutiny wasn’t exclusive to the Commerce Department. Apple recently sued NSO Group in hopes of banning it from using its products again. It’s also seeking damages, which it says will be donated to “to organizations pursuing cybersurveillance research and advocacy.”
Israel hasn’t said why it issued these restrictions on cyberweapons exports, but between the US government’s sanctions and a lawsuit filed by one of the world’s richest companies, it’s not hard to guess why the country suddenly decided to bring its security industry to heel.
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