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UK, France pitch rules to curb spyware abuse

by editor

The United Kingdom, France and allied countries on Tuesday called for international guidelines for the responsible use of spyware, in an effort to stop the hacking tools from running rampant.

At a conference at London’s Lancaster House co-hosted by the British and French government, more than a dozen countries and technology companies signed a declaration saying that “uncontrolled dissemination” of cyber intrusive tools could lead to “unintentional escalation in cyberspace.”

A 2021 investigation called the Pegasus Project highlighted how spyware tools like the Israeli-made Pegasus software had spread across the world and are being abused in political and corporate hacking campaigns. Despite widespread condemnation, governments’ efforts to crack down on malicious hacking software have largely failed — in part because the tools are popular with many intelligence and security services, including in democratic countries.

Among the countries that have signed up to the pledge for international rules guidelines EU members Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy and Poland, as well as the United States, United Kingdom and the African Union. On the industry side, Apple, defense firm BAE Systems, Google, Meta and Microsoft signed up.

The group of countries and firms hopes to curb the proliferation and unabated use of intrusive cybertools. They called for principles and policy options to balance human rights and security interests, including policies to use spyware in a “legal and responsible manner,” in line with international law and under strict oversight by authorities.

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