(Washington) US President Joe Biden has issued an executive order banning the use of malicious private spyware by all US government branches and agencies, the White House announced on Monday.

The text prohibits software that poses “significant risks” of security for the United States, or “significant risks” of diversion by a foreign government for the purpose of violating human rights, according to a statement from the House -White.

And this, whether they are manufactured by American or foreign companies, specifies the American executive.

Spyware is sophisticated surveillance tools that allow remote access to electronic devices, especially smart phones, without the knowledge of their users.

They make it possible to consult the activity and the contents of electronic devices, and even to alter their operation.

“The proliferation of private spyware poses a specific and growing risk” to the United States, particularly to “the safety of U.S. officials and their families,” the executive said.

The US government has so far counted 50 officials, based in 10 countries, who have been, or may have been, targeted by malicious spyware, a senior White House official said.

“A growing number of foreign governments around the world have used this technology for repression”, “intimidation” and surveillance, against “political opponents”, “activists and journalists”, notes the White House .

This decree of the American president is part of the second “Democracy Summit”, a largely virtual event organized at the initiative of the United States, which opens on Tuesday and which will take place over three days.

“We believe that this decree will give an impetus to reform a largely deregulated sector which is not sufficiently controlled”, said the senior official already quoted.

“We have seen attempts by spyware companies to try to break into the federal government, to offer and sell their tools to them,” said the source, who was speaking in a press interview and who requested anonymity.

He said, however, that the United States would not make public the names of spyware companies whose products fall under the new ban.

The subject of private spyware has come to the fore on the international scene, in particular following the cascading revelations around the Pegasus software, exported by the Israeli company NSO.

The latter was blacklisted in November 2021 by the United States.

In July 2021, a coordinated multi-media investigation uncovered a list of over 50,000 names of individuals who may have been monitored through Pegasus.

These allegations have triggered scandals and sometimes legal proceedings in several countries, including the creation of a special commission of inquiry in the European Parliament.

In the United States, the FBI had admitted to the Guardian that it had acquired a “limited license” to “test” Pegasus. The American federal police assured that they had never used this tool in investigations, and that they wanted above all to understand how it works.

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has launched a legal battle against NSO, accused of having used WhatsApp servers to set up Pegasus, while in November 2021, Apple sued the Israeli company in federal court in California. , accusing the Israeli company of having implanted the software on iPhones.

NSO is not the only company in the sights of Americans. The Commerce Department has also placed another Israeli company (Candiru), a Russian company (Positive technologies) and a Singaporean company (Computer Security Initiative Consultancy PTE) on its blacklist, which restricts trade with the firms concerned.