Stock Groups

Meta says 50,000 Facebook users may have been spied on


On October 28th, 2021 in Menlo Park (California), a worker cleans trash from the new logo.

Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

MetaAccording to Facebook, around 50,000 Facebook users were targeted by private surveillance firms.

Meta also operates Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. blogpostThursday, it announced that it had notified the individuals it believed were affected by the malign activities.

Seven “surveillance-for-hire” companies have also been banned from Meta’s platforms, the company said. Cobwebs Technologies and Cognyte were also targeted. They are all located in Israel. One is in India and one in North Macedonia. The other one is in China. CNBC did not receive a response from any of them immediately.

Meta stated that the seven companies carried out reconnaissance, engagement, and exploitation. While some firms did all three of these, others only focused on one or two. Mark Zuckerberg is the CEO of the company. He stated that around 1500 accounts were removed from his platforms.

Meta claimed that companies attacked journalists and human rights activists across over 100 nations for the benefit of their clients. Meta also stated that fake accounts were created, targets were made friends, and hacking was used to gain information.

“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,” wrote Meta’s David Agranovich, director of threat disruption, and Mike Dvilyanski, head of cyber espionage investigations.

“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,” they added.

Jake Moore (ex-head of digital forensics for a U.K. force and now global cybersecurity advisor to ESET) stated in a statement, “It is essential that such accounts are removed.”

It is difficult for Facebook, he stated. “Fake accounts can still be removed even though it is very hard and Facebook has struggled in the past with this as many will continue to slip through the algorithm.” However, it does highlight that Facebook can be used for social engineering, spying, and other purposes. Therefore, users should keep their information to a minimum on Facebook.

It isn’t even the first major surveillance scandal. Pegasus spyware, which was developed in Israel by the NSO Group, was used to identify thousands of individuals including leaders around the world and journalists.

Meta has taken legal action against NSO Group for allegedly spreading Pegasus software via WhatsApp. The U.S. government had already blacklisted NSO Group last month.