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    United States Enacts Visa Limitations on 13 Connected to Improper Use of Business Espionage Software

    The U.S. Administration of State announced on Monday its intent to enact visa constraints on 13 individuals purportedly associated with the creation and distribution of commercial espionage software, or who are closely related to such endeavors.

    These persons have either facilitated or profited from the exploitation of this technology, which has targeted journalists, scholars, advocates of human rights, dissidents, and other perceived adversaries, as well as personnel of the U.S. Government, the department stated.

    The identities of those subjected to visa constraints were not revealed; nonetheless, this action follows over two months after the U.S. government declared the initiation of a novel policy, enforcing visa limitations on individuals engaged in activities that could jeopardize privacy and the freedom of expression.

    This measure also seeks to combat the abuse and propagation of commercial espionage software, which has been employed by autocratic regimes to surveil members of civil society, in addition to fostering accountability.

    This development coincides with a report by the Israeli publication Haaretz, detailing a proof-of-concept (PoC) system named Aladdin, introduced in 2022 by Intellexa, which enabled the dissemination of mobile espionage software on Android and iOS devices via online advertisements.

    The Intellexa Consortium was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) last month for its involvement in the creation, operation, and dissemination of commercial espionage software intended to target government officials, journalists, and policy analysts within the nation.

    Beyond espionage software, Kaspersky recently disclosed that 31,031 distinct users fell victim to stalkerware in 2023, marking an increase from the 29,312 recorded in the preceding year, with the majority located in Russia, Brazil, and India – a recurring pattern observed since 2019.

    “Stalkerware products are commonly marketed as legitimate tools for theft prevention or parental control for mobile devices and computers, but their true nature diverges significantly. Installed surreptitiously and without consent, these applications operate clandestinely, offering the perpetrator control over the victim’s life,” the corporation elucidated.

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