Israel eases rules on cyber weapons exports despite criticism from civil society

Author: Channel News Asia, Published on: 29 August 2019

A rule change by the [Israeli] defence ministry means companies can now obtain exemptions on marketing licences for the sale of some products to specific countries... Industry specialists say the change makes a speedier approval process possible for the sale of cyber weapons... which are used to break into electronic devices and monitor online communications... Israel’s defence ministry said the rule change "was made to facilitate effective service to Israeli industries while maintaining and protecting international standards of export control and supervision"... Israeli companies, including NSO Group and Verint, and defence contractor Elbit Systems, are among the world leaders in the growing global market for cyber weapons... Some privacy and human rights groups say Israel's controls on the sale of cyber weapons are inadequate. Earlier this year, Amnesty said the government should take a tougher line against export licences that have "resulted in human rights abuses". The Israeli government declined to comment on accusations of rights abuses... Ron Deibert, director of Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto, [said] "Our research shows there is a crisis in civil society because of the abuse of commercial spyware"...  A United Nations report in June called for a global moratorium on the sale of cyber weapons until human rights-compliant safeguards are in place in Israel and other countries... Citizen Lab has linked NSO cellphone hacking software known as Pegasus to spying scandals in Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia... NSO says all its sales are approved by Israel's government. Software from Elbit has been linked by Citizen Lab to an espionage campaign targeting Ethiopian dissidents. Elbit declined to comment.

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Related companies: Elbit Systems NSO Group Verint