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December 6, 2021 5:05 pm

Israel Tightens Control of Cyber Tech Exports Amid NSO Affair

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Israeli cyber firm NSO Group’s exhibition stand is seen at “ISDEF 2019”, an international defence and homeland security expo, in Tel Aviv, Israel June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Keren Manor

Israel on Monday introduced tighter rules for countries seeking to buy its cyber technologies and intelligence systems, restricting their use only for the investigation and prevention of defined terrorist acts and serious crimes.

A state seeking to acquire Israel’s cyber tech systems will now have to sign a declaration containing the new guidelines and definitions for their use.

The move comes days after reports that spyware developed by the Israeli cyber company NSO Group was used to hack the phones of US State Department staffers by unknown attackers. The company was blacklisted in November by the US for allegedly selling spyware to foreign governments who misused the tools to target government officials, journalists and others. The sale of NSO’s products abroad is controlled via export licenses issued by Israel’s Defense Ministry.

In the updated declaration to be signed by purchasing countries, terrorist acts are described as attacks on a person’s life which may cause death or injury; involve kidnapping, hostage taking, seizure of aircraft; the release of dangerous substances; or are, among other things, committed with the aim of seriously intimidating a population. A serious crime is defined as a crime for which the national law imposes a six-year term of imprisonment or more.

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“An act of expressing an opinion or criticism, as well as presenting data regarding the state, including any of its institutions, shall not, in and of itself, constitute a Serious Crime,” the declaration read.

Other uses of the cyber systems that are prohibited are “to inflict harm on an individual or a group of individuals, merely due to their religion, sex or gender, race, ethnic group, sexual orientation, nationality, country of origin, opinion, political affiliation, age or personal status.”

If a purchasing country does not follow the new guidelines, Israel can restrict the use of the cyber system, revoke the license and shut it down.

The updated user declaration was formulated by the Israeli Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.

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