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UK Intelligence: About 80 Nations Deploy Spyware on Their Citizens

May 10, 2023
UK Intelligence About 80 Nations Deploy Spyware on Their Citizens

While some nations employ the technologies as intended, others employ them to snoop on journalists and dissidents.

Spyware is now owned by almost 80 countries worldwide, according to the UK Center for National Cyber Security (GCHQ), which drew on information from the UK intelligence community. GCHQ warned that the growth of commercial spyware services and tools has lowered the barriers to entry into cyberspace, thereby allowing government and non-state cybercriminals greater access. The findings were based on classified documents, scholarly material, industry expertise, and open-source information.

Some countries have used spyware to monitor journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents, regime opponents, and international political figures. Others have purchased hacking tools to achieve legitimate law enforcement goals.

The NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, which has been regarded as a significant threat to British privacy by prominent politician Oliver Dowden, is among the tools that GCHQ believes will experience a surge in demand. The organization’s goal is to combat cyber threats by ensuring that all technologies are created, sold, and utilized in a legal, responsible, and proportionate manner.

GCHQ’s Head of Resilience and Technology, Jonathon Ellison, warned that as more professional hackers target a wider range of targets, ready-made tools and vulnerabilities will reduce the barrier to entry for everyone, and the threat will grow and become less foreseeable. According to the agency’s assessment, the market for spyware and hired hackers is expanding, increasing the risk of unintended targeting or escalation.

Despite this, Ellison cautioned that regulating the industry would almost certainly lack international consensus, be difficult to implement, and be influenced by political and financial interests.

The UK’s National Cyber Force (NCF) has carried out offensive operations against terrorist groups and foreign governments in the past. The NCF is currently involved in daily operations to eliminate terrorist organizations, child sex traffickers, and British military rivals, as well as the routine struggle against cyber threats.

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