(FreedomBeacon.com)- On Wednesday, the US Commerce Department added four foreign companies to its trade blacklist, claiming they sold spyware to foreign governments that use the equipment to target US government officials, journalists, and others.
The companies added to the trade blacklist are Israeli companies NSO Group and Candiru, Positive Technologies of Russia, and Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE from Singapore.
As a result of being placed on the trade blacklist, exports to these companies from US counterparts will be restricted. Suppliers looking to sell to these companies must first apply for a license, which is likely to be denied.
A spokesperson for the State Department clarified that placing these entities on the trade blacklist does not mean the US is taking action against the country in which they are located.
The NSO Group and Candiru have previously been accused of selling hacking tools to authoritarian regimes. The NSO denies the claim, arguing it only sells its products to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and takes steps to curb abuse.
According to a spokesperson, NSO was “dismayed” by the decision since its technologies “support U.S. national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime.” NSO plans to advocate for a reversal of the Commerce Department’s decision.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration had imposed sanctions on the Russian cybersecurity firm Positive Technologies for providing support to Russian security services. However, the company denies any wrongdoing.
Positive Technologies’ General Direct, Denis Baranov said that the company does not know what prompted the Commerce Department to add them to the blacklist. He added that these new sanctions will not affect their business, nor will they pose additional threats.
A former US official with knowledge of Positive Technologies told Reuters that the firm helped establish the computer infrastructure used in recent Russian-based cyberattacks on US organizations.
Export control experts say the Commerce Department designation could have a far broader impact on the listed companies than simply limiting their access to US technology because many companies will choose to avoid doing business with listed entities entirely just to eliminate the risk of an inadvertent violation.