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The Biden Administration bans the use of commercial spyware by the US government

The US government is cracking down on spyware programs that might be used on federal-owned devices. Today, the Biden Administration filed an executive order that bans the use of commercial spyware on US government devices.

The executive order states:

Foreign governments and persons have deployed commercial spyware against United States Government institutions, personnel, information, and information systems, presenting significant counterintelligence and security risks to the United States Government. Foreign governments and persons have also used commercial spyware for improper purposes, such as to target and intimidate perceived opponents; curb dissent; limit freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, or association; enable other human rights abuses or suppression of civil liberties; and track or target United States persons without proper legal authorization, safeguards, or oversight.

One such example was reported in December 2021. Nine iPhones used by employees of the US State Department who had worked or had connections in Uganda were hacked by spyware designed by the NSO Group. Today's executive order didn't name any specific spyware apps or the companies that make them, but you can bet the NSO Group's software would have been banned under this order.

This new spyware ban applies to all aspects of the federal government. That includes law enforcement, intelligence, and defense departments. It also bans the use of apps that were previously used to reveal US government details that would normally not be revealed publicly.

The executive order comes even as the US bans the use of the China-based TikTok app on all government devices, for suspected security issues. Some lawmakers would like to see TikTok banned entirely from all US devices, government and otherwise, because of the company's connections to China.

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