Tag Archive for: bans
The NSO Group is an Israel-based security firm dealing in hacking tools that law enforcement agencies use to hack smartphones. The company came under fire earlier this year. Security researchers found that attackers used the Pegasus family of hacking programs to target individuals. The Pegasus hack allowed nation-states to spy on iPhones without user knowledge via sophisticated attacks that leave no trace. A New York Times journalist recently detailed his experience with the hack. He explained that he had no way of knowing who hacked him or what they had stolen. All he knew was that they got into his iPhone. The NSO Group denied the reports every step of the way.
NSO’s denials apparently weren’t enough to convince the US government, though. The US has now placed the Israeli company on the infamous entity list. As a result, the NSO Group can’t do any business with American companies, whether on the hardware or software side.
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The US ban
The US announced on Wednesday that it added four companies to the entity list, including NSO Group. Israeli surveillance company Candiru is also on the list. Russia’s Positive Technologies and Singapore’s Computer Security Initiative Consultancy are the others. Both trafficked in hacking tools that threaten “the privacy and security of individuals and organizations worldwide.”
The commerce department said the new additions to the entity list are part of the Biden administration’s “efforts to put human rights at the center of US foreign policy, including by working to stem the proliferation of digital tools used for repression.” Here’s the part that concerns the NSO Group:
NSO Group and Candiru (Israel) were added to the Entity List 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. These tools have also enabled foreign governments to conduct transnational repression, which is the practice of authoritarian governments targeting dissidents, journalists and activists outside of their sovereign…
The Federal Trade Commission has unanimously voted to ban the spyware maker SpyFone and its chief executive Scott Zuckerman from the surveillance industry, the first order of its kind, after the agency accused the company of harvesting mobile data on thousands of people and leaving it on the open internet.
The agency said SpyFone “secretly harvested and shared data on people’s physical movements, phone use and online activities through a hidden device hack,” allowing the spyware purchaser to “see the device’s live location and view the device user’s emails and video chats.”
SpyFone is one of many so-called “stalkerware” apps that are marketed under the guise of parental control but are often used by spouses to spy on their partners. The spyware works by being surreptitiously installed on someone’s phone, often without their permission, to steal their messages, photos, web browsing history and real-time location data. The FTC also charged that the spyware maker exposed victims to additional security risks because the spyware runs at the “root” level of the phone, which allows the spyware to access off-limits parts of the device’s operating system. A premium version of the app included a keylogger and “live screen viewing,” the FTC says.
But the FTC said that SpyFone’s “lack of basic security” exposed those victims’ data, because of an unsecured Amazon cloud storage server that was spilling the data its spyware was collecting from more than 2,000 victims’ phones. SpyFone said it partnered with a cybersecurity firm and law enforcement to investigate, but the FTC says it never did.
Practically, the ban means SpyFone and its CEO Zuckerman are banned from “offering, promoting, selling, or advertising any surveillance app, service, or business,” making it harder for the company to operate. But FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra said in a separate statement that stalkerware makers should also face criminal sanctions under U.S. computer hacking and wiretap laws.
The FTC has also ordered the company to delete all the data it “illegally” collected, and, also for the first time, notify victims that the app had been secretly installed on their…
Facebook today is, once again, theoretically ramping up enforcement against hate speech, this time with a new policy prohibiting Holocaust denial on the platform.
The change is due to a “well-documented rise in anti-Semitism globally,” Facebook executive Monika Bickert wrote in a corporate blog post today.
The policy is a complete 180 for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who in a 2018 interview specifically described Holocaust denial as the kind of “deeply offensive” speech he nonetheless felt should be permitted on the platform. The next day, amid blowback, he “clarified” his position:
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