Israel has cut its list of countries eligible to purchase its cyber technologies after concerns about possible misuse of a hacking tool sold by Israeli firm NSO Group abroad, Israeli financial newspaper Calcalist reported Thursday.
The newspaper, which did not disclose its sources, said Mexico, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and the United Arab Emirates were among the countries that are now banned from importing Israeli cyber technology. The list of countries eligible for purchase has been reduced from 102 to just 37 states.
Israel has been under pressure to curb spyware exports since July when a group of international news organizations reported that the NSO’s Pegasus tool was used in several countries to hack the phones of journalists, government officials and human rights activists.
These reports prompted Israel to review cyber export policies administered by the Defense Ministry.
Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, both of which normalized relations with Israel last year, as well as Saudi Arabia and Mexico were among the countries where Pegasus has been linked to political surveillance, according to Amnesty International and the University of Citizen Lab Toronto investigating surveillance.
NSO has denied any wrongdoing, stating that it only sold its tools to governments and law enforcement agencies and took precautions to prevent abuse.
Earlier this month, US officials blacklisted NSOs for trading or sold spyware to governments that misused them. The company said it was dismayed by the decision because its technologies “support US national security interests and policies by preventing terrorism and crime”.
NSO has also faced lawsuits and criticism from major tech companies alleging that it was exposing its customers to hacking attacks. Apple Inc was the last to sue NSO this week.