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Meta bans Indian surveillance-for-hire company Belltrox from its platforms including Facebook

Impersonation and other social engineering hacks allegedly used by the firm were uncovered in a joint investigation.

Facebook's parent company Meta has banned surveillance-for-hire companies, including one from India called BellTrox, from its platforms following an investigation into their activities by Citizen Lab and Meta. In its report, Meta said that it has removed 400 Facebook accounts linked to the India-based company called BellTrox which was allegedly being used for reconnaissance, social engineering, and to send malicious links. Surveillance-for-hire companies have been in the public eye in India after NSO Group's Pegasus spyware allegedly targeting several activists was reported in 2019. The same issue came up on a much higher scale earlier this year, with reports of Pegasus potentially being used to surveil Indian political leaders, journalists, human rights activists, businessmen, military officials, intelligence agency officials, and many others. Since then, these companies have been under the scanner of governments, social media platforms, and regulators. BellTrox operated on Facebook between 2013 and 2019 Facebook said that between 2013 and 2019, BellTrox operated fake accounts to impersonate a politician and pose as journalists and environmental activists in an attempt to social engineer its targets for soliciting information including email addresses. This activity, based on the exact same playbook, re-started in 2021 with a small number of accounts impersonating journalists and media personalities to send phishing links and solicit the targets’ email addresses. Among those targeted were lawyers, doctors, activists, and members of the clergy in countries including Australia, Angola, Saudi Arabia, and Iceland — Meta said in the report. Earlier in 2020, Reuters had reported how New Delhi-based BellTrox had targeted government officials in…

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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