US INTRODUCES VISA BANS ON 13 PEOPLE INVOLVED IN SPYWARE ACTIVITIES

US INTRODUCES VISA BANS ON 13 PEOPLE INVOLVED IN SPYWARE ACTIVITIES

US Introduces Visa Bans on 13 People Involved in Spyware Activities

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The US government has imposed visa restrictions on 13 individuals linked to the creation and misuse of spyware, targeting journalists, academics, and human rights advocates.
Blinken introduced the visa restrictions in February 2024 to combat spyware misuse, aligning with US Executive Orders and Commerce Department actions.
Spyware misuse by Intellexa and Cytrox threatens freedoms; Apple alerted users in 92 countries to remote device risks.
The US government has slapped visa restrictions on 13 individuals tied to creating and distributing spyware.

A recent statement by the government has revealed that these individuals have either directly profited from or enabled the misuse of this technology. The spyware in question has been used to target a wide range of individuals, including journalists, academics, human rights advocates, dissidents, VisaGuide.World reports.

The Department is taking steps to impose visa restrictions for 13 individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware to target journalists, academics, human rights defenders, dissidents, perceived critics, and US Government personnel around the world.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller
The visa restrictions are a step by the US government to tackle the misuse of commercial spyware. This initiative includes limits on the government’s use of risky spyware, export controls, and sanctions for accountability.

It also involves working with civil society and the private sector to find tech solutions, protect human rights advocates, and help victims.

Blinken Unveils Visa Restrictions in US Anti-Spyware Campaign

In February of this year, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced this visa restriction policy as part of the US’s broader strategy to combat the misuse of commercial spyware.

The US has taken multiple steps in this direction, such as an Executive Order curbing the government’s use of risky spyware and Commerce Department listings of companies facilitating spyware misuse. Diplomatic efforts, including the US-led Joint Statement on Spyware Misuse, have also been part of the plan.

The United States remains concerned with the growing misuse of commercial spyware around the world to facilitate repression, restrict the free flow of information, and enable human rights abuses. The misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
In March 2023, the Biden Administration issued another Executive Order targeting surveillance tools that threaten national security or foreign policy. Collaborating with 36 countries in the Freedom Online Coalition, they’ve set out principles to safeguard human rights in surveillance tech use.

Additionally, last July, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) added four European spyware firms to its Entity List for distributing hacking tools aimed at high-risk individuals globally.

Apple Alerts 92 Countries to Remote ‘Mercenary Spyware Attack’

The State Department has pointed out that spyware tools from companies like Intellexa S.A. in Greece, Intellexa Limited in Ireland, Cytrox Holdings Zrt in Hungary, and Cytrox AD in North Macedonia have been used to target political opponents, stifle freedom of speech, quash dissent, and surveil journalists worldwide.

Just recently, Apple issued warnings to iPhone users in 92 countries about a “mercenary spyware attack” designed to compromise their devices remotely.

 

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