According to a new study from Meta, around 50,000 users will receive warnings regarding “malicious activity.” It accused surveillance businesses of creating false accounts, befriending people, and harvesting data through hacking tactics.
The companies were accused of targeting individuals such as journalists and human rights campaigners, according to the corporation. Following a months-long investigation, Meta suspended 1,500 pages across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, according to the report.
According to Meta, the companies targeted consumers in over 100 countries on behalf of their clients.
Lawyers, doctors, activists, and members of the clergy were among those targeted in countries such as Australia, Angola, Saudi Arabia, and Iceland. It also erased 200 accounts operated by Cobwebs and its customers globally, in addition to BellTroX. The company, which has headquarters in Israel and the United States, provides access to its platform, which allows for espionage across the internet, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Flickr, public websites, and “dark web” sites, according to sources.
Customers were found in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, the United States, New Zealand, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Poland, and other countries as part of the inquiry. It noticed frequent targeting of activists, opposition politicians, and government officials in Hong Kong and Mexico, in addition to law enforcement actions.
Following revelations earlier this year about the Pegasus spyware targeting thousands, Thursday’s report puts the spying sector under much more scrutiny.
Facebook has already filed a lawsuit against Pegasus’s owners, NSO Group, for allegedly spreading malware using WhatsApp. Last month, the US government placed the company and others on a no-fly list, accusing them of supplying spyware to foreign agencies in order to “maliciously target” individuals.
The new research, according to Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta, “is far bigger than just one organization, and it’s lot bigger than just malware-for-hire.”
Investigators discovered “indiscriminate” targeting of regular citizens as well as high-profile personalities such as lawmakers and human rights defenders, he said. The Israeli firm Black Cube, which sprang to notoriety after it was revealed that Harvey Weinstein had recruited them to spy on women accusing him of sexual assault, was one of the companies listed by Meta.
Black Cube denied “phishing or hacking” in a statement to Reuters, claiming that all of its agents’ activities were “completely consistent with local regulations.” According to Meta authorities, those who were hit by the activity would receive automatic notifications that they had been impacted without providing specifics.