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Because of the Pegasus spyware, the US bans dealings with the security firm NSO Group

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News Tech: Surveillance software developer NSO Group could have a very rough road ahead. The U.S. Department of Commerce added his NSO to its list of companies, effectively banning him from doing business with the company. The move bans American companies from doing business with his NSO without explicit approval. It would also be unlikely if the regulations did not allow license exceptions and the US defaulted to denying inspection.

The latest round of trade bans has also affected Russian companies Positive Technologies and Singapore-based Computer Security Initiative Consultancy, which have been accused of peddling hacking tools. We reached out to NSO Group for comment, but their official media contact spat out an error. The company has steadfastly denied claims that Pegasus has facilitated abuse in the past, including denying it was used to attack murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

NSO and its Israeli sister company Candiru (also included on the Entity List) have been accused of facilitating hostile espionage by authoritarian governments. They allegedly supplied spyware like NSO’s Pegasus to “authoritarian governments” and used the tools to sneak up on activists, journalists, and other critics to quell political dissent. The Commerce Department said it is part of a push by the Biden-Harris administration to make human rights “at the center” of U.S. foreign policy.

The NSO said it blocked access due to previous abuses and hired a defamation lawyer who accused investigative journalists and their partners of misunderstandings and unsubstantiated assumptions. But the Department of Commerce claims it has evidence of the NSO’s actions. The net effect is the same. NSOs are not necessarily doomed to failure. However, it can be difficult to operate without access to previously used US partners like blocklist member Huawei.

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