Israel tightening cyber exports after scandals

Israel is tightening its guidelines for cyber exports following a number of incidents linked to the Israeli spyware company NSO Group.

Israel’s Defense Ministry announced on Monday that any country purchasing Israeli cyber technology going forward will have to sign a declaration saying they will utilize the products “for the investigation and prevention of terrorist acts and serious crimes only,” according to The Associated Press.

The declaration also warns that countries that breach the agreement could be sanctioned, “including limiting the cyber system and/or disconnecting it,” according to the AP.

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The announcement from the Israeli Defense Ministry comes days after a report last week revealed that the phones of at least nine State Department employees had reportedly been hacked through the use of spyware from NSO. 

The hack focused on individuals who were based in Uganda or were working on matters involving Uganda. The incident marked the first known time that NSO’s Pegasus spyware was used in acts against people involved with the U.S. government, according to the AP.

Monday’s announcement from the Israeli Defense Ministry did not mention NSO Group, the AP noted.

NSO has come under increasing scrutiny in the U.S.

The U.S. Commerce Department added the company to its “entity list” in November, effectively blacklisting it in the country. The group was accused of creating spyware programs and selling them to foreign governments that used the technology for surveillance of dissidents, journalists, academics and others.

Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO last month for allegedly targeting and surveilling Apple users. The tech giant asked that the Israeli company be permanently banned from using Apple software, services or devices, which could significantly weaken the effectiveness of the Pegasus spyware product.