While some countries use the tools for their intended purpose, others use them to spy on journalists and dissidents.
Over the past 10 years, more than 80 countries around the world have acquired spyware. This was stated by the UK National Computer Security Center (GCHQ), referring to UK intelligence data.
The proliferation of commercial spying tools and services is increasingly lowering the barrier to entry into cyberspace for government and non-state cybercriminals, GCHQ said. The findings were based on a combination of "classified data, industry knowledge, academic material and open source information."
While some countries have acquired hacking tools for legitimate law enforcement purposes, others have used them "to target journalists, human rights activists, political dissidents and regime opponents, and foreign government officials."
Senior British Minister Oliver Dowden cited NSO Group's Pegasus spyware as the UK's top privacy threat. GCHQ expects spyware, hired hackers and other malicious "tools and services" to be in increasing demand around the world.
The agency also noted that GCHQ's policy priority is to “combat cyber threats by ensuring that all tools are developed, sold and used in a lawful, responsible and proportionate manner.
Earlier, the government of the United Kingdom officially confirmed that the country's National Cyber Force (NCF) is conducting offensive operations against unfriendly regimes and terrorist organizations. The NCF has been involved daily in operations to take down terrorist groups, child sexual abusers and Britain's military adversaries. There is no need to talk about the usual ordinary fight against cyber threats, which is typical for this kind of organization.