WASHINGTON, March 5 (KUNA) -- US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated on Tuesday two individuals and five entities associated with the Intellexa Consortium for their role in developing, operating, and distributing commercial spyware technology used to target Americans, including US government officials, journalists, and policy experts.
A press release by US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said the proliferation and misuse of commercial spyware pose growing security risks to the United States.
Foreign actors have misused such spyware to enable human rights abuses and to target dissidents globally for repression and reprisal.
Today's designations aim to discourage the misuse of surveillance tools and reflect US Government efforts to establish clear guardrails for the responsible development and use of these technologies aligned with the protection of human rights and democratic values around the world.
The proliferation of commercial spyware poses distinct and growing security risks to the United States and has been misused by foreign actors to enable human rights abuses and the targeting of dissidents around the world for repression and reprisal.
"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 E. 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.
In advance of the third Summit for Democracy, hosted by the Republic of Korea in Seoul on March 18, 2024, this action supports the Biden-Harris Administration's government-wide effort to counter the risks posed by commercial spyware and to establish robust protections against the misuse of such tools.
Today's designations align with steps announced in March 2023 around the second Summit for Democracy including the issuance of an Executive Order (E.O.) 14093 to Prohibit US Government Use of Commercial Spyware that Poses Risks to National Security; the Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware; and the Guiding Principles on Government Use of Surveillance Technologies." The statement added, "this action reflects the US government's commitment to use diverse tools and authorities, including sanctions as well as export controls and visa restrictions, to counter the misuse of such sophisticated surveillance technology.
Since its founding in 2019, the Intellexa Consortium has acted as a marketing label for a variety of offensive cyber companies that offer commercial spyware and surveillance tools to enable targeted and mass surveillance campaigns.
These tools are packaged as a suite of tools under the brand-name "Predator" spyware, which can infiltrate a range of electronic devices through zero-click attacks that require no user interaction for the spyware to infect the device.
Once a device is infected by the Predator spyware, the spyware can be leveraged for a variety of information stealing and surveillance capabilities, this includes the unauthorized extraction of data, geolocation tracking, and access to a variety of applications and personal information on the compromised device.
The Intellexa Consortium, which has a global customer base, has enabled the proliferation of commercial spyware and surveillance technologies around the world, including to authoritarian regimes. Furthermore, the Predator spyware has been deployed by foreign actors in an effort to covertly surveil US government officials, journalists, and policy experts.
In the event of a successful Predator infection, the spyware's operators can access and retrieve sensitive information including contacts, call logs, and messaging information, microphone recordings, and media from the device.
The United States imposed personal sanctions against former Israeli intelligence officer Tal Dilian who is behind the cyber firms Cytrox and Intellexa, which developed the Predator.
A growing number of foreign governments around the world, moreover, have deployed this technology to facilitate repression and enable human rights abuses, including to intimidate political opponents and curb dissent, limit freedom of expression, and monitor and target activists and journalists.
Tal Jonathan Dilian (Dilian) is the founder of the Intellexa Consortium, and is the architect behind its spyware tools.
The consortium is a complex international web of decentralized companies controlled either fully or partially by Dilian, including through Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou.
Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou (Hamou), is a corporate off-shoring specialist who has provided managerial services to the Intellexa Consortium, including renting office space in Greece on behalf of Intellexa S.A. Hamou holds a leadership role at Intellexa S.A., Intellexa Limited, and Thalestris Limited. (end) aam.mb