SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Meta, Facebook’s parent company, blacklisted a number of “cyber mercenary” companies and began warning around 50,000 people who were presumably targeted by the corporations suspected of spying on activists, dissidents, and journalists throughout the world.
Meta apparently pulled down 1,500 Facebook and Instagram profiles related to groups offering services ranging from gathering public information online to employing bogus identities to gain trust from targets to digital surveillance via hack attempts.
In addition, the social media giant has begun notifying nearly 50,000 people it believes have been targeted in more than 100 countries by organisations including many from Israel, a key participant in the cybersurveillance sector.
“The surveillance-for-hire market… seems to be indiscriminate targeting on behalf of the highest bidder,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta’s head of security policy, during a news conference.
The parent company of Facebook claimed it removed accounts associated with Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, and Bluehawk CI, all of which were located or founded in Israel.
Accounts associated with India-based BellTroX, North Macedonian enterprise Cytrox, and an unnamed entity in China were also banned from Meta platforms.
Researchers at the Canadian cybersecurity nonprofit Citizen Lab accused Cytrox on Thursday of producing and selling malware used to hack Egyptian opposition activist Ayman Nour’s phone.