US Lawmakers Urge Biden to Sanction Hacking Companies, Including NSO Group
A number of U.S. lawmakers called on the administration of President Joe Biden to apply the Global Magnitsky Act and sanction four mercenary hacking companies, including Israel’s scandal-plagued NSO Group, for helping authoritarian regimes abuse human rights.
letter sent to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, urging them to take additional steps against DarkMatter, Nexa Technologies, NSO Group, and Trovicor.“We write to urge you to implement Global Magnitsky sanctions for technology companies that have enabled human rights abuses, including the arrests, disappearance, torture and murder of human rights activists and journalists, such as Jamal Khashoggi, by selling powerful surveillance technology to authoritarian governments,” said the
The letter was sent by U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and at least 10 other lawmakers.
The NSO Group has been criticized for selling its spyware to governments that used it to spy on protestors, journalists and rights activists. The company, however, claims it only helps countries in fighting crimes and terrorism.
The NSO’s Pegasus software is believed to be one of the strongest cyber-surveillance tools available on the market. It allows the users to control the target's phone, as well as secretly download all data from the device and activate the camera or microphone.
Pegasus was allegedly used to spy on Khashoggi before he was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
The lawmakers who signed the letter praised the Biden-Harris Administration for sanctioning the surveillance companies listed by a Commerce Department earlier this year, adding that “commercially available surveillance technologies like malware, location tracking services and bulk intercept technology” have directly contributed to human rights abuses.
As an example, the signatories mentioned Bahraini activists who were “arrested and tortured, during which they were shown transcripts of text messages and phone calls intercepted using Western-supplied surveillance technology.”