US Sanctions Predator Spyware Maker Intellexa

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The US government has announced further action against commercial spyware makers by sanctioning two people and five “entities” associated with the Intellexa Consortium.

Intellexa is the umbrella organization for multiple companies based in Greece, Ireland, Hungary and beyond. Its North Macedonian Cytrox business is responsible for developing prolific spyware known as Predator, which is still being widely used by repressive regimes to eavesdrop on journalists, dissidents, politicians and others.

Like other variants such as the NSO Group’s Pegasus, Predator uses zero-click exploits that require no user interaction for it to infect a device. In fact, just this week Apple was forced to rush out an iOS update to fix two zero-day flaws that are being actively exploited in the wild.

The US Treasury said its sanctions on Intellexa were a result of its spyware being abused by actors to commit human rights abuses, target dissidents and even eavesdrop on US government officials, journalists and policy experts.

“Today’s actions represent a tangible step forward in discouraging the misuse of commercial surveillance tools, which increasingly present a security risk to the United States and our citizens,” said under-secretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson.

“The United States remains focused on establishing clear guardrails for the responsible development and use of these technologies while also ensuring the protection of human rights and civil liberties of individuals around the world.”

Read more on spyware: Predator Spyware Linked to Madagascar's Government Ahead of Presidential Election

The two individuals targeted by the sanctions are Intellexa’s Israeli founder, Tal Jonathan Dilian, and corporate off-shoring specialist, Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou.

The sanctions mean that any assets, including property, linked to the designated individuals or entities are now frozen by the US government, and companies or individuals based in the US or allied nations are prohibited from transacting with them.

This announcement comes one day after Intellexa took servers offline following new research about Predator's operations.

The Biden administration has sought to crack down on commercial spyware over recent years. It placed NSO Group on a trade blacklist, imposed visa restrictions on various individuals and banned US government use of any commercial spyware previously misused by foreign states.

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