update deskU.S.-Israel Business, Trade & Technology

US sanctions ex-IDF officer whose firms sold spyware

Col. Tal Dilian (ret.) developed, operated and distributed "Predator" spyware worldwide via his Intellexa Consortium, according to the U.S. Treasury.

U.S. Treasury Department. Credit: U.S. Department of the Treasury.
U.S. Treasury Department. Credit: U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on a former senior Israeli military intelligence officer and his spyware companies for targeting Americans, including government officials, journalists and policy experts.

According to the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the sanctions target Col. Tal Dilian (ret.) and the Intellexa Consortium he founded in 2019. The consortium includes five entities, one of which, Greece-based software development company Intellexa S.A., exported its surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes, according to the Treasury.

The other entities sanctioned include Ireland-based Intellexa Limited, North Macedonia-based Cytrox AD, Hungary-based Cytrox Holdings Zartkoruen Mukodo Reszvenytarsasag (Cytrox Holdings ZRT) and Thalestris Limited, also based in Ireland.

Dilian’s Intellexa partner, Sara Aleksandra Fayssal Hamou, a corporate off-shoring specialist, was also sanctioned.

Intellexa developed, operated and distributed the “Predator” spyware worldwide, which was used by foreign countries for surveillance activities.

In July of last year, the U.S. Commerce Department blacklisted Intellexa and Cytrox, tightly restricting Americans from doing business with them.

“Today’s actions represent a tangible step forward in discouraging the misuse of commercial surveillance tools, which increasingly present a security risk to the United States and our citizens,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian E. Nelson.

“The United States remains focused on establishing clear guardrails for the responsible development and use of these technologies while also ensuring the protection of human rights and civil liberties of individuals around the world,” he continued.

Tuesday’s announcement marks the first time that the U.S. government has sanctioned a commercial spyware entity. It comes nearly a month after the Biden administration announced a new policy to impose visa restrictions on individuals involved in abusing spyware to target journalists, activists, dissidents and others.

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