An executive order was signed by President Biden prohibiting the use of commercial spyware that pose risks to national security or human rights. Commercial spyware is identified as sophisticated and invasive cyber surveillance tools sold by vendors to access electronic devices remotely, extract their content and manipulate their components, all without the knowledge or consent of the devices’ users.
The Biden-Harris Administration has mobilized a government-wide effort to counter the potential risks posed by commercial spyware. In particular, the executive order signed by President Biden:
- Applies to U.S. federal government departments and agencies, including those engaged in law enforcement, defense or intelligence activities, and encompasses spyware tools furnished by foreign or domestic commercial entities.
- Prohibits departments and agencies across the federal government from operationally using commercial spyware tools that pose significant counterintelligence or security risks to the U.S. Government or significant risks of improper use by a foreign government or foreign person, including to target Americans or enable human rights abuses.
- Establishes key counterintelligence, security and improper use factors that indicate such risks.
- Identifies concrete remedial steps that commercial spyware vendors can take to reduce identified risks, such as cancelling relevant licensing agreements or contracts that present such risks.
- Directs important new reporting and information-sharing requirements within the Executive Branch to ensure departments and agencies can make informed and consistent determinations based on up-to-date all-source information, including a semi-annual comprehensive intelligence assessment.