SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook parent Meta on Thursday banned a series of “cyber mercenary” groups, and began alerting some 50,000 people likely targeted by the firms accused of spying on activists, dissidents and journalists worldwide.
Meta took down 1,500 Facebook and Instagram pages linked to groups with services allegedly ranging from scooping up public information online to using fake personas to build trust with targets or digital snooping via hack attacks.
The social media giant also started warning about 50,000 people it believes may have been targeted in more than 100 nations by firms that include several from Israel, which is a leading player in the cybersurveillance business.
“The surveillance-for-hire industry… looks like indiscriminate targeting on behalf of the highest bidder,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, told a press briefing.
The Facebook parent said it deleted accounts tied to Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube and Bluehawk CI — all of which were based or founded in Israel.
India-based BellTroX, North Macedonian firm Cytrox and an unidentified entity in China also saw accounts linked to them removed from Meta platforms.
Cytrox was also accused Thursday by researchers at Canadian cybersecurity organization Citizen Lab of developing and selling spyware used to hack Egyptian opposition figure Ayman Nour’s phone.
“These cyber mercenaries often claim that their services only target criminals and terrorists,” said a Meta statement.
“Targeting is in fact indiscriminate and includes journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition members and human rights activists,” it added. “We have banned them from our services.”
Black Cube, in a statement to AFP, denied wrongdoing or even operating in the “cyber world.”Business Recorder
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