Meta takes down 7 hacking-for-hire operations that targeted 50,000 users

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Dec 16, 2021 | CYBERSCOOP

Meta removed seven “surveillance-for-hire” organizations that used Facebook to target at least 50,000 individuals across 100 countries for surveillance operations, some of which included the deployment of spyware, the company announced in a report Thursday.

The operation marked a major step in efforts by the social media company against a sprawling surveillance industry that Facebook security experts warn is becoming more “democratized” and easily accessible to spy on not just high-profile targets, but ordinary users. The company removed hundreds of accounts belonging to firms known as Israeli Cobwebs Technologies, Cognyte, Black Cube, Bluehawk CI, India-based BellTroX, Macedonia-based Cytrox, and an unknown entity in China. Of the seven firms, only Cobwebs and Cognyte did not engage in what it called “exploitation” phase activities, or actually delivering malware to hack victims.

Facebook sent cease and desist letters to the six named companies.

Facebook has clashed with the growing spyware market for years. Facebook sued notable spyware vendor NSO Group in 2019 for allegedly using its messaging app WhatsApp to deploy malware used for spying on 1,400 mobile devices. NSO Group has disputed the claims.

Nathaniel Gleicher, head of security policy at Meta,

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