Don't miss the latest stories
Meta To Alert 50,000 FB, IG Users They’re Victims Of ‘Surveillance For Hire’
By Alexa Heah, 17 Dec 2021
Image via BigTunaOnline / Shutterstock.com
Meta has announced it will begin notifying 50,000 users who were targets of “surveillance-for-hire” campaigns, which were found to have been carried out by seven different organizations across Facebook and Instagram.
These international groups were engaged by users across the world, including the United States, to target, spy on, and attempt to exploit others in over 100 countries. The social media platform uncovered the plans during an internal investigation, which it had published earlier this week.
“While these ‘cyber mercenaries’ often claim that their services only target criminals and terrorists, our months-long investigation concluded that targeting is in fact indiscriminate and includes journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition members, and human rights activists,” Meta stated.
The report, which was written by Meta’s Head of Security Policy, Nathaniel Gleicher; Director of Global Threat Disruption, David Agranovich; and Head of Cyber Espionage Investigations, Mike Dvilyanski; says that the platform has removed the offending networks. It also passed on information to law enforcement and other tech companies, and will be sending cease-and-desist letters to those involved.
These findings come after the tech world grappled with news that the Pegasus spyware, created by Israeli firm NSO Group, had been used by dictatorial governments to spy on journalists, reporters, activists, and other citizens.
In 2019, Facebook sued NSO Group after it was discovered to have exploited a vulnerability in WhatsApp’s video-calling that which allowed it to spy on conversations. Last month, Apple filed a lawsuit against the group as well, alleging its ForcedEntry exploit allowed bad actors to remotely break into users’ iPhones.
Unfortunately, Meta’s report seems to allude that there are more companies involved in selling surveillance and spying services.
According to Protocol, on a call with reporters following the news, Gleicher said: “Surveillance for hire is broader than any one company, and it’s broader than, I think, much of the public debate has been focused on in the last month and years.”
Organizations uncovered in the investigations include BellTroX from India; Cytrox from North Macedonia; Cobwebs Technologies, Cognate, Black Cube, and Bluehawk CI from Israel; and an anonymous firm from China.
In total, Meta said it removed 1,500 Facebook and Instagram accounts with links to the bad actors, which included activity on messaging service, WhatsApp.
It is believed the targets were spied on via Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites as well. As more people become aware of the threats, it hopes the authorities will impose stricter regulations to thwart nefarious uses of the technology.
[via Protocol, cover image via BigTunaOnline / Shutterstock.com]
More related news
Also check out these recent news