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US, partner countries call for controls to counter misuse of spyware


A padlock is seen in front of the word ‘spyware’ and binary code in this illustration taken May 4, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The United States and some of its partner countries on Thursday called for strict domestic and international controls to counter the proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware.

The joint statement was issued by the governments of Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The countries said they were committed to preventing the export of technology and equipment to end-users who are likely to use them for “malicious cyber activity.” The joint statement also said the countries would share information with each other on spyware proliferation and misuse, including to better identify these tools.

On Monday, U.S. President Joseph Biden signed an executive order intended to curb the malicious use of digital spy tools around the globe targeting U.S. personnel and civil society.

The new executive order was designed to apply pressure on the secretive industry by placing new restrictions on U.S. government defense, law enforcement and intelligence agencies’ purchasing decisions.

In 2021 Reuters reported that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPhones of at least nine U.S. State Department employees were targeted by an unknown assailant using sophisticated spyware developed by an Israeli company. On Monday, a senior U.S. official said at least 50 U.S. government staffers stationed in 10 countries were targeted with commercial hacking tools.

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