Facebook said it has disrupted a network of hackers tied to China who were attempting to distribute malware via malicious links shared under fake personas. The social network’s cyber espionage investigations team has taken action against the group, disabled their accounts and notified the roughly 500 users who were targeted.
The hackers — believed to be part of the Earth Empusa or Evil Eye groups — were targeting activists, journalists and dissidents, predominantly among Uyghurs from Xinjiang in China, living abroad in Turkey, Kazakhstan, the US, Syria, Australia, and Canada.
Facebook said the highly focused campaign was aimed at collecting information about these targets by infecting their devices with malicious code for surveillance purposes. The links that were shared through Facebook included links to both legitimate and lookalike news websites, as well as to fake Android app stores.
In the case of the news websites, Facebook’s head of cyber espionage investigations Mike Dvilyanski said the hackers were able to compromise legitimate websites frequently visited by their targets in a process known as a watering hole campaign intended to infect devices with malware.