Ground Report | New Delhi: Facebook denounces 6 companies; Meta Platforms Inc. reported Thursday that seven spy companies have used its platform to spy on 50,000 people in 100 countries. These seven companies are located in China, Israel, India and North Macedonia.
BellTroX, which is based in India, is among seven companies identified in four countries in the investigation that has been ongoing since the beginning of this year. Meta is a parent company and social media platforms and messaging services like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are part of it.
Facebook denounces 6 companies
Through a statement, the parent company of Facebook, Meta, alerted people who were the object of surveillance by “cyber mercenaries”, who work hand in hand with government agencies, as well as with companies.
In an announcement Thursday, the social media giant said the seven entities had targeted people in more than 100 countries on behalf of their government clients. Only two of the companies named by Facebook, Black Cube and Cobwebs Technologies, had responded to questions by email or phone at the time of publication.
One of the seven is a North Macedonian startup Cytrox, an iPhone and Android malware developer, Facebook said. Although his business model depends on staying in the shadows, one of the few times his name appeared in the press was in Forbes in 2019, when a Cyprus-founded and Israel-founded surveillance “alliance” emerged dubbed Intellexa that it had acquired. Cytrox. for $ 5 million.
Intellexa CEO Tal Dilian claimed that he had rescued the Macedonian-founded company from extinction, shortly before showing a $ 9 million surveillance van that could hack a Huawei smartphone from hundreds of meters away to steal private data, including WhatsApp messages.
(Intellexa has since received a $ 1 million fine from a data protection authority for using the van.) Facebook announced the removal of 300 Facebook and Instagram accounts that it has linked to Cytrox, and revealed a “large” number of websites that appear to have been used by the surveillance provider that mimics those of major public companies such as Apple, Fox News, Google, Facebook’s Instagram and the automaker Tesla. The indication was that these could have been used in phishing attacks against targets, Facebook said.
Along with the Facebook ban, researchers from the surveillance industry monitor Citizen Lab claimed today that Cytrox’s iOS malware, dubbed Predator, was discovered on the iPhone of an Egyptian activist and former presidential candidate, Ayman Nour, who allegedly also was the target of a surveillance tool created by under fire Israeli spyware maker NSO Group.
Citizen Lab, based at the University of Toronto, identified countries that are potential Cytrox customers: Armenia, Egypt, Greece, Indonesia, Madagascar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia. Facebook said it had also identified evidence of victims in Armenia and clients in Germany, Vietnam, the Ivory Coast, and the Philippines.
A person identified by Citizen Lab as CEO of Cytrox had not responded to requests for comment, while the founder, referred to by Pitchbook as Rotem Farkash, did not respond to requests for comment. Intellexa founder and director Tal Dilian declined to comment. However, NSO denied that it had ever sold spyware tools to Egypt and that the claims in the Citizen Lab report were false.
Apple also denounced the NSO Group
Apple filed a legal complaint against NSO Group and its parent company to demand responsibility for surveillance and targeted attacks on users of Apple devices.
The lawsuit contains information about the infection of the devices of affected individuals by the NSO Group with its Pegasus spyware.
The iPhone smartphone maker said it filed the lawsuit to prevent NSO Group from harming its users again and asked for a court order permanently banning NSO Group from using the company’s software, services, and devices.