Facebook said it has disrupted a hacking operation that used the social media platform to spread iOS and Android malware that spied on Uyghur people from the Xinjiang region of China.
Malware for both mobile OSes had advanced capabilities that could steal just about anything stored on an infected device. The hackers, which researchers have linked to groups working on behalf of the Chinese government, planted the malware on websites frequented by activists, journalists, and dissidents who originally came from Xinjiang and had later moved abroad.
“This activity had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation while obfuscating who’s behind it,” Mike Dvilyanski, head of Facebook cyber espionage investigations, and Nathaniel Gleicher, the company’s head of security policy, wrote in a post on Wednesday. “On our platform, this cyber espionage campaign manifested primarily in sending links to malicious websites rather than direct sharing of the malware itself.”