At a glance.
- Members of US Congress push for sanctions against foreign surveillance tech companies.
- US and Australia agree to share electronic data for criminal investigations.
- New Zealand lists malicious cyber activity as a top national security threat.
- US reaffirms Huawei as threat to national security.
Members of US Congress push for sanctions against foreign surveillance tech companies.
Reuters reports that US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and sixteen other Democratic lawmakers have penned a letter urging the Treasury Department and State Department to sanction Israeli surveillance tech firm NSO Group, along with three other firms, for allowing their tech to be used by authoritarian governments to spy on civilians. Specifically, the letter calls for the US government to invoke the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which gives the president the power to penalize entities who have committed human rights abuses. The other companies in question are UAE company DarkMatter, and EU online bulk surveillance companies Nexa Technologies and Trovicor, and penalties could include freezing the bank accounts of the companies’ top executives and banning travel to the United States. The White House has already blacklisted NSO Group and three other firms, but the letter states that this is not enough: “These surveillance companies do depend on the U.S. financial system and U.S.-based investors, particularly when they eventually wish to raise billions by listing on the stock market." An NSO spokesperson told CNN that their software supports US national security interests and aids in criminal investigations, and that NSO terminates its contracts with clients who abuse the tech.
US and Australia agree to share electronic data for criminal investigations.
The United States and Australia signed an agreement under the US Cloud Act Wednesday that will help their governments to obtain "timely access" to electronic information necessary to criminal investigations. Security Week explains that the pact will allow each country to bypass tedious court processing when requesting a suspect’s electronic communications from telecoms in the other country. US Attorney General Merrick Garland stated, “The Cloud Act agreement between the United States and Australia will make our cooperation to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute serious crimes more effective, and in doing so, this agreement will help keep our citizens safer.”
New Zealand lists malicious cyber activity as a top national security threat.
New Zealand’s 2021 National Security Intelligence Priorities, released today by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, show that the government’s national security and intelligence agencies will be zeroing in on malicious cyber activity and increased competition from influential firms in the Pacific. Stuff notes that other top concerns include threats to the country’s maritime domain and border security, and dangers to “democracy and territory” in other parts of the world. Arden explained that the priorities, or “ketes,” will “help us to identify threats, risks, and challenges to New Zealand’s security and wellbeing, while outlining current areas of interest where intelligence can support the Government to make informed decisions”.
US reaffirms Huawei as threat to national security.
In the wake of an investigation released by the Washington Post on Tuesday confirming that Chinese telecom Huawei marketed surveillance technology to government clients, the US National Security Agency (NSA) has reasserted that it views the tech giant as a threat to US security. The Post obtained a trove of PowerPoint presentations suggesting the company was marketing voice recognition, location tracking, facial-recognition-based tech, prison monitoring systems, and employee surveillance tech. A Huawei spokesperson told VOA, “Huawei has no knowledge of the projects mentioned in The Washington Post report…Huawei does not develop or sell systems that target any specific group of people and we require our partners comply with all applicable laws, regulations and business ethics.” Former US President Donald Trump already imposed severe sanctions against the company, which were renewed and in some instances increased by President Joe Biden. An NSA spokesperson told Fox Business, "I don’t have a comment on the specifics of this report but President Biden and the administration continue to believe Huawei is a national security threat. That is why it remains on the entity list and why this administration designated it under E.O. 14032 for operating in the defense and related [material] and/or surveillance technology sectors of the PRC economy."