Meta says 50,000 Facebook users may have been tracked

A worker picks up trash in front of the new logo and name ‘Meta’ on a sign in front of Facebook headquarters on October 28, 2021 in Menlo Park, California.

Justin Sullivan | beautiful pictures

Meta has said that around 50,000 Facebook users have been targeted by private surveillance companies.

Meta, which also owns and operates Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, said in a blog post Thursday that it warned people it believes have been targeted by malicious activity.

Seven “surveillance for hire” companies have also been banned from Meta’s platforms, the company said. Actions were taken against Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, Blue Hawk CI, BellTroX, Cytrox and an unidentified Chinese entity. Four of them are located in Israel, one in India, one in North Macedonia and one in China. Neither company immediately responded to CNBC’s request for comment.

Meta says seven companies have done a mix of reconnaissance, engagement and mining. Some do all three, while others focus on one or two. The company, led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said about 1,500 accounts affiliated with the seven companies had been removed from its platform.

Meta said the companies targeted people including journalists and human rights activists in more than 100 countries, adding that they created fake accounts, befriended the target and used Hacking methods to get information.

David Agranovich, director of threat disruption, and Mike Dvilyanski, head of Meta’s cyber espionage investigation team, write: “The rental surveillance industry targets people on the Internet to gather intelligence, manipulate them to reveal information and compromise their devices and accounts”.

They added: “These companies are part of a thriving industry that offers intrusive software tools and surveillance services indiscriminately to any customer – regardless of their target audience. whom they target or the human rights violations they may trigger”.

Jake Moore, former head of the UK police force’s digital forensics department and now a global cybersecurity adviser at ESET, said in a statement that the removal of such accounts was “complete” necessary.

“While it has been extremely difficult for Facebook to get rid of fake accounts, it has struggled in the past with detecting fake accounts as some will inevitably still get through,” he said. algorithmically,” he said. “However, it does highlight that Facebook is a tool used in social engineering and even to track people, so users must be reminded to limit the amount of information they post on social media. public social media.”

This is not the first major surveillance scandal of the year. In July it emerged Pegasus “spyware” developed by Israel’s NSO Corporation has been used to target thousands of people including world leaders and journalists.

Meta is taking legal action against NSO Group for allegedly distributing Pegasus software via WhatsApp, while the US government blacklisted the company last month. Meta says 50,000 Facebook users may have been tracked

Emma James

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