Facebook owner Meta said it canceled 1,500 fake social media accounts used by seven surveillance-for-hire firms to conduct online attacks against government critics and members of civil society.
Targeted People Alerted by Facebook
These accounts were primarily used to observe targets and lure them into visiting malicious websites, or receiving booby-trapped messages, typically, that compromise their devices and online profiles. Tens of thousands of people potentially targeted by these groups have been privately alerted by Facebook.
“The global surveillance-for-hire industry targets people to collect intelligence, manipulate and compromise their devices and accounts across the internet,” said David Agranovich, director, threat disruption and Mike Dvilyanski, head of cyber espionage Investigations, in a blog post.
“While these ‘cyber mercenaries’ often claim that their services only target criminals and terrorists, our months-long investigation concluded that targeting is in fact indiscriminate and includes journalists, dissidents, critics of authoritarian regimes, families of opposition and human rights activists.”
What is Surveillance-For-Hire?
The global surveillance-for-hire industry targets people across the internet to collect intelligence, manipulate them into revealing information and compromise their devices and accounts.
These companies are part of a sprawling industry that provides intrusive software tools and surveillance services indiscriminately to any customer — regardless of who they target or the human rights abuses they might enable.
This industry “democratizes” these threats, making them available to government and non-government groups that otherwise wouldn’t have these capabilities.