United Nations experts last week called for a halt to the sale and transfer of surveillance technology until countries introduce a regulatory framework to address the human rights impact of its abuse.

“It is highly dangerous and irresponsible to allow the surveillance technology and trade sector to operate as a human rights-free zone,” the experts warned.

The statement specifically singles out the Israeli spyware company NSO Group, which has been condemned for years by privacy advocates for aiding authoritarian regimes in tracking and intimidating journalists, human rights advocates and dissidents. The call for action follows a report from Amnesty International that the company’s Pegasus spyware was more widely used than previously thought.

CyberSolace would like to highlight that this sub-industry is not necessarily new and has been operating in this way for at least the last 7-10 years.  It is not just NSO Group and it is not just Israel that exercise similar activities in this space.  By example there is project Raven in the UAE which was supported by former US operatives, and Candiru which was recently uncovered to be marketing similar products like the NSO’s.  This is a thriving sub industry with substantial amounts of money in it and often veiled under deep layers of secrecy, and run by professional former operatives.  It is simply too difficult to see how mainstream media or even technology professionals would ever be able to keep up with it.  For any entity that is concerned with this type of surveillance it is best to assume that it is targeted and consider alternative means of communications where the risk is deemed high.

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The Cyber Peace Institute Views On The Topic