2 min read

13 People Involved in Spyware Banned from Crossing US Borders


April 24, 2024

Promo Protect all your devices, without slowing them down.
Free 30-day trial
13 People Involved in Spyware Banned from Crossing US Borders

The US government has imposed visa restrictions on 13 people known to be involved in the development and sale of spyware, the State Department said.

“As part of the United States’ efforts to counter the ongoing proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware … , the Department is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on 13 individuals who have been involved in the development and sale of commercial spyware or who are immediate family members of those involved,” reads the announcement.

“These individuals have facilitated or derived financial benefit from the misuse of this technology, which has targeted journalists, academics, human rights defenders, dissidents and other perceived critics, and U.S. Government personnel,” the statement continues.

The visa restrictions are part of a wider US initiative to counter the proliferation of mercenary spyware. The Biden Administration says the use of such cyber-weapons poses a risk not just to national security but also to human rights.

As we reported in February, the new policy represents the US government’s latest approach to countering the misuse of commercial spyware.

“The United States remains concerned with the growing misuse of commercial spyware around the world to facilitate repression, restrict the free flow of information, and enable human rights abuses,” the State Department said at the time. “The misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.”

Apple was among the first to retaliate against commercial spyware in November 2021, suing Israeli spyware maker NSO Group for enabling extensive state-sponsored hacking of the iPhone.

Research by the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto consistently finds NSO’s Pegasus spyware is used to spy on journalists, smear political adversaries, restrict freedom of speech, and more.

Apple last week sent security alerts to high-risk people in 92 countries, warning that threat actors were actively targeting them with mercenary spyware.

This potent type of malware can infect devices without any input from the victim and it’s designed to observe and collect information about a user's activities, as well as pilfer files from the device, listen to conversations, take photos through the device’s built-in cameras, and more.

The Cupertino giant said in an updated support document that “the extreme cost, sophistication and worldwide nature of mercenary spyware attacks makes them some of the most advanced digital threats in existence today.”

Bitdefender recommends you always keep your devices up to date with the latest security patches issued by the vendor as the first important step against targeted spyware attacks – especially if you consider yourself a target. For peace of mind, consider running a dedicated security solution on all your devices.

On iOS and macOS, use Lockdown Mode whenever you believe you might be targeted.

Check out our guide How Spyware Infects Smartphones and How to Defend Against It to learn more about the spyware threat and how to stay protected.




Filip has 15 years of experience in technology journalism. In recent years, he has turned his focus to cybersecurity in his role as Information Security Analyst at Bitdefender.

View all posts

You might also like