Israel cut cyber export list, excluding totalitarian regimes

Pierluigi Paganini November 29, 2021

Israel’s Ministry of Defense bans the sale of surveillance software and offensive hacking tools to tens of countries.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense has cut the list of countries to which Israeli surveillance and cybersecurity firms could sell their products and services.

65 countries have been excluded from the export list, which now includes only 37 nations, by the Israeli Government.

The export list currently only includes Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S.

“Israel has updated the list of countries local companies are permitted to sell cybersecurity tools to, reducing the overall number to 37 countries, down from 102.” reports Calcalistech. “Assuming this claim is correct, it seems that Israel was very lenient in providing approvals for the sale of cyber tools and was aware of all the sales being made by NSO.”

Israel’s Ministry of Defense removed from the list countries such as Morocco, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE, which because they abused the surveillance software acquired from the Israeli NSO Group. 

The decision to cut the list comes after the announcement of The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to sanction four companies for the development of spyware or the sale of hacking tools used by nation-state actors. The firms are NSO Group and Candiru from Israel, Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE. LTD from Singapore, and Positive Technologies from Russia.

NSO Group and Candiru are being sanctioned for the development and sale of surveillance software used to spy on journalists and activists. 

Recently, Apple has sued NSO Group and its parent company Q Cyber Technologies in a U.S. federal court for illegally targeting its customers with the surveillance spyware Pegasus.

According to the lawsuit, NSO Group is accountable for hacking into Apple’s iOS-based devices using zero-click exploits. The software developed by the surveillance firm was used to spy on activists, journalists, researchers, and government officials.

The legal action aims at permanently preventing the infamous company from breaking into any Apple software, services, or devices.

“The new list will significantly complicate matters for Israeli cybersecurity companies, especially those selling offensive cyber tools, to operate in countries with totalitarian regimes or with a record of violating human rights.” concludes Calcalistech. “The Israeli cybersecurity sector currently generates $10 billion in annual revenue, with offensive cyber believed to be responsible for 10% of those sales. Some 13% of all cybersecurity companies operate from Israel, with 29% of all investments in the sector being directed to Israeli companies.”

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Pierluigi Paganini

(SecurityAffairs – hacking, surveillance)

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