US adds two European surveillance companies to export control list

By Jarrett Renshaw, David Shepardson and Karen Freifeld

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday added two Europe-based surveillance companies to its economic trade blacklist as part of the Biden administration’s efforts to crack down on the misuse of commercial spyware.

The department added Cytrox, a Hungarian-based surveillance company and Greek company Intellexa, another cyber-surveillance company and two related entities in Ireland and Macedonia.

Attempts to reach representatives from Cytrox and Intellexa were not immediately successful.

Reuters reported last year that a Greek prosecutor had opened an investigation into a journalist’s allegation that his smartphone was infected with surveillance software during an operation by the country’s intelligence services. The journalist told Reuters he believed his phone had been infected with Predator spyware developed by Cytrox and said Predator spyware was sold in Greece by Intellexa.

The Commerce Department said the companies were added “for trafficking cyber exploits used to gain access to information systems, thereby threatening the privacy and security of individuals and organizations around the world.”

Reuters reported in August 2022 that Greece’s intelligence chief told a parliamentary committee that his agency had spied on a journalist, two sources said, in a revelation that coincides with growing pressure on the government to shed light on the use of surveillance malware.

The reporter’s allegation came as the European Union (EU) began to follow the United States in taking a closer look at spyware dealers and the use of powerful surveillance software.

Reuters reported in 2020 that Intellexa was working with intelligence agencies in Southeast Asia and Europe.

(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw, David Shepardson and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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