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China depicts US as ‘biggest threat to global cybersecurity’ amid tensions

A computer user is seen in black clothes in front of the USA flag in this illustration. (File Photo)

China has depicted Washington as the “biggest threat to global cybersecurity”, saying that Washington “knowingly abuses technology” for spying and a range of other purposes.

The United States is seeking to preserve “hegemony in cyberspace” under the false pretext of “national security”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters on Friday, urging the US to “stop its global hacking operations.”

The development came after US President Joe Biden issued a new executive order, purportedly limiting the use of spyware by the American government. Signing the order late last month, Biden banned the use of commercial spyware like Pegasus and Predator, but left ample room for the US to keep using hacking technologies of all sorts.

Hitting back at the US move, Ning said that the recent White House order to crack down on certain surveillance tech would not change the fact that Washington is the “biggest threat” to global cyber-security.

US agencies have targeted foreign states and companies “under the pretexts of national security and human rights without any evidence,” she said, adding that “the US government, in an attempt to maintain its hegemony in cyberspace, knowingly abuses technology for cyber surveillance and theft of secrets.”

Earlier this week, a report in the New York Times revealed that the White House signed a “secret contract” with the Israeli cyber surveillance firm NSO Group through a front company in 2021.

The contract allowed officials to use NSO Group’s ‘Landmark’ geolocation tool to covertly track “thousands” of phone users in Mexico.

The deal also “allows for Landmark to be used against mobile numbers in the United States.”

Despite language in the executive order urging federal agencies to stop employing tools that have been “misused” by governments abroad, the deal with NSO Group “still appears to be active,” the Times reported.

The Israeli firm has come under fire for collaborating with over a dozen foreign governments to target human rights activists, journalists, and lawyers using its powerful ‘Pegasus’ spyware program, including in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The New York Times said in a report last year that the FBI purchased access in 2019 to Pegasus, which invades mobile phones and mines their contents.

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