US State Department Implements Visa Ban for Illegal Commercial Spyware Users

The U.S. State Department said,” It's implementing a new policy that imposes visa restrictions on individuals who are linked to the illegal use of commercial spyware to surveil civil society members.”

According to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, "the misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association."In the most extreme circumstances, such targeting has been related to arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial executions.

The latest regulations underline the US government's ongoing attempts to limit the spread of monitoring capabilities. These technologies are intended to "promote accountability" for those involved in commercial spyware usage.

The new policy covers people who have used such tools to

  •  Unlawfully surveil
  •  Harass
  • Suppress
  • Intimidate individuals & those who stand to financially benefit from the misuse

It also involves businesses like private sector offensive actors (PSOAs). They produce and sell spyware to governments and other organizations. It is still unclear how the new limits will be implemented for those who have passports but do not need a visa to visit the United States.

However, CyberScoop reports that "executives potentially affected by the ban would no longer be eligible to participate in the visa waiver program." In addition, they would need to seek a visa to travel to the United States.

After a long time, Citizen Lab discovered that NSO Group's Pegasus spyware targeted 35 journalists, lawyers, and human rights advocates in Jordan, a Middle Eastern nation.

In November 2021, the United States government sanctioned NSO Group and Candiru. They are another spyware company that may assist you in producing and providing cyber weapons to foreign nations. It has been seen that foreign governments utilize these techniques to maliciously target-

  •  Government officials
  •  Journalists
  •  Businesspeople
  •  Activists
  •  Academics
  •  Embassy workers

Then, early last year, US President Joe Biden issued an executive order forbidding federal agencies from deploying commercial spyware. The administration wants to be able to pose national security hazards. In July 2023, the United States also placed Intellexa and Cytrox on a trade blacklist.

In April 2023, the U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) issued an intelligence report stating that "at least 80 countries have purchased commercial cyber intrusion software over the past decade."


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