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Report: Biden Admin Working on EO Prohibiting Spyware Operational Use

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Top legislative affairs officials from the Departments of Commerce and State have revealed in a letter to Reps. Jim Himes, D-Conn., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., that the Biden administration is planning to issue an executive order to prohibit the U.S. government from using spyware that poses counterintelligence and security risks, CyberScoop reported Friday. 

Susie Feliz, assistant secretary of commerce for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, and Naz Durakoglu, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, sent the letter in response to a September request from a bipartisan group of lawmakers to address threats posed by foreign commercial cyber surveillance technologies.

According to the officials, several regulatory and diplomatic measures have been implemented to counter spyware threats. Among them are the inclusion of foreign companies on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List and the launch of the Export Controls and Human Rights Initiative.

Two of the designated companies are NSO Group and Candiru, which were added to the list in November 2021 for developing and supplying spyware to foreign governments.

The State Department is also working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on the implementation of a 2022 National Defense Authorization Act measure that “involves the identification of contractors that have knowingly assisted or facilitated certain cyberattacks or conducted surveillance activities on behalf of relevant foreign governments against the United States or for the purposes of suppressing dissent or intimidating critics.”