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Facebook removes mercenary surveillance companies that attacked about 50,000 accounts

A woman is holding a smartphone with the Facebook logo. DADO RUVIC (Reuters)

Facebook has notified nearly 50,000 users in more than 100 countries that their accounts have suffered hacking attempts by seven surveillance companies working for government agencies or private clients, according to a statement released by the company on Thursday. These companies of paid vigilante mercenaries were linked to nearly 1,500 accounts on Facebook and Instagram that were used to collect information about people and try to trick them into giving up sensitive personal information so that the companies could install spyware on their devices, according to the published report. today by Meta, formerly known as Facebook.

The notification is the result of a months-long investigation of Meta, on what their supervisors call themselves “cyber mercenaries” who engage in “paid surveillance.” As a result, Facebook has removed 1,500 fake accounts, blocking malicious web addresses and sending cease and desist letters to companies.

Speaking to National Public Radio (NPR), Nathaniel Gleicher, Meta's security policy chief, stated that “each of these actors relies on rogue account networks on our platforms that are used to deceive users and confuse them ”. Some companies also used WhatsApp to infect target phones with malware. Surveillance was also carried out through other Internet services, from email and text messages to Twitter and YouTube.

Under the title of Report of threats in the contract surveillance industry, puts in challenged the industry's categorical claim that spyware was used only against terrorists and drug dealers and pedophiles. Meta's investigation reveals that these surveillance mercenaries are targeting politicians, human rights workers, journalists, dissidents, and family members of opposition figures, with few legal controls or other forms of accountability.

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