Spyware are programs used to spy on their victims, recording what they see, hear and even type. While many of these spyware programs are spread almost like any other malware, some spyware (such as Pegasus or Predator) are sold to government agencies in order to spy on journalists, business people and even cybersecurity managers at technology companies.
Now, U.S. President Joe Biden has announced a new executive order that greatly restricts U.S. federal agencies’ use of commercial spyware that could pose a threat to national security and human rights.
The move, according to TechCrunch, comes at a sensitive time for the U.S. government, after U.S. authorities confirmed that several government officials had their cell phones compromised by spyware.
The Biden administration assured several journalists, shortly before the signing of the executive order, that the United States is trying to get ahead of potential problems by establishing rules that would regulate the use of spyware by other governments and their allies, which also use these commercial spyware programs.
The executive order would be the latest measure in this area taken by the U.S. government in recent years, including the prohibition of some spyware manufacturers from doing business in the United States, as well as the approval of a series of laws aimed at limiting the use and acquisition of spyware by the country’s federal agencies.
The specific names of any spyware affected by the executive order have not been made public at this time, although it is likely that organizations such as NSO Group, Cytrox and Candiru, known for making and selling spyware to authoritarian governments that commit human rights violations, have been considered in its criteria.
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