According to Meta investigators, cyber mercenaries create fake accounts on social networking platforms to gather information from people’s profiles and join groups or chats to learn more.
San Francisco, California, USA:
On Thursday, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, announced the closure of 1,500 accounts linked to “cyber mercenary” businesses accused of spying on activists, dissidents, and journalists throughout the world on behalf of paying clients.
The Facebook and Instagram profiles were linked to seven companies that allegedly offered services ranging from gathering public information online to building trust with targets through phoney identities or digital surveillance via hack assaults.
Meta announced plans to notify roughly 50,000 people in over 100 countries who it believes may have been targeted by companies located in or formed in Israel, which is a major player in the cyber-surveillance industry.
“The surveillance-for-hire market… appears to be indiscriminate targeting on behalf of the highest bidder,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy.
Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, and Bluehawk CI, all of which are established or founded in Israel, had their accounts cancelled by the largest social media network.
BellTroX, a company based in India, Cytrox, a company based in North Macedonia, and an undisclosed Chinese business all had accounts tied to them banned from Meta platforms.
“These cyber mercenaries frequently claim that they only work with criminals and terrorists,” according to a Meta statement.
“Targeting is indiscriminate,” it continued, “and includes journalists, dissidents, opponents of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition members, and human rights campaigners.”
Unnamed Chinese operation
Companies that sell “web intelligence services” begin the surveillance process by acquiring data from publicly available online sources such as news headlines and Wikipedia.
According to Meta investigators, cyber mercenaries then create phoney accounts on social media sites to gather information from people’s profiles and even join groups or conversations to learn more.
Another strategy is to gain a target’s trust on a social networking site, then dupe them into clicking on a booby-trapped link or file that instals malware that can steal information from whatever device they use to access the internet.
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