For The First Time, A Spyware Organization Has Received Sanctions From The Treasury Department

( – The US government sanctions people and entities that try and cause harm, typically those that sponsor terrorism or violate human rights. It has imposed restrictions on several countries, businesses, and individuals, but recently it targeted a spyware organization for the first time.

On Tuesday, March 5, the US Department of Treasury issued a press release announcing it had sanctioned “two individuals and five entities associated with the Intellexa Consortium.” It accuses those penalized of “developing, operating, and distributing commercial spyware technology used to target Americans.” Those sanctioned include

  • Tal Jonathan Dilian, Intellexa Consortium founder;
  • Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou, off-shoring specialist;
  • Intellexa S.A., a Greece-based software development company within the consortium;
  • Intellexa Limited, an Ireland-based company within the consortium;
  • Cytrox AD, a North Macedonia-based company within the consortium;
  • Cytrox Holdings Zartkoruen Mukodo Reszvenytarsasag, a Hungary-based entity within the consortium; and
  • Thalestris Limited, an Ireland-based company within the consortium.

According to Axios, a senior official noted that this marks the first time that the department has sanctioned a spyware organization. The restrictions came about because of Intellexa’s Predator spyware, a malware that tracks a person’s phone calls, locations, and other activities without them ever having to click on a bad link. The Treasury Department notes that the technology has been used by foreign actors to surveil US policy experts, journalists, and government officials.

The spyware organization works with many different governments to sell Predator, which the State Department notes has been misused by foreign actors “to enable human rights abuses and to target dissidents globally for repression and reprisal.”

This isn’t the first time the US government has targeted the Intellexa Consortium—or spyware organizations in general. The consortium was placed on a trade blacklist last July, which means US companies are barred from doing any business with it. Additionally, President Joe Biden issued an executive order in March 2023 that banned federal agencies and departments from using commercial spyware that puts national security at risk.

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