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Society

Cypriot Lawmakers Want Probe of Spyware Development on Island

NICOSIA – After a European Parliament committee chief whose panel is looking into spyware use said it’s like in operation on Cyprus, the Parliament began a probe into its development.

Sophie in’t Veld, rapporteur of the first draft report for the report said that  Cyprus was an “attractive place” for selling surveillance technologies she called a danger to democracy in the European Union.

The report cited Cypriot officials as saying three to four companies produce spyware on the island, said Reuters in a report.

“Its been confirmed that Cyprus is a greenhouse for companies which produce spyware … which has political backing,” said MP Aristos Damianou of the opposition AKEL Community party, which wanted the inquiry.

A government spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, the news site said, after President Nicos Anastasiades earlier said any idea Cypriot-developed spyware was used in the EU was “imaginary.”

Members of his conservative Democratic Rally party have accused the opposition of attempting to sway public opinion ahead of a Presidential election in early 2023.

One spyware developer, Israel’s NSO group, said in a June 2021 report that its products were “closely regulated by export control authorities in the countries from which we export our products: Israel, Bulgaria and Cyprus,” the news site added.

NSO, which sells its Pegasus spyware to government agencies, says it is a powerful tool in the fight against crime and terrorism. In July 2021, Cyprus’ Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Industry said there was “no information on issuing any export licenses for NSO products to date.”

But the owner of a company said to have been operating a spyware van on the previously, an Israeli ex-intelligence agent, bought Predator spyware developed by a North Macedonia company and opened an office in Athens.

Greece, engulfed in a phone bugging and spyware scandal that has jeopardized the ruling New Democracy ahead of 2023 elections, said it would ban the sale and use of spyware and denied using it, despite in ‘t Veld every indication of its use pointed to the government.

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