(Reuters) – Hackers from Pakistan used Facebook to target people in Afghanistan with links to the previous government during the Taliban's takeover of the country, the company's threatening investigator said in an interview with Reuters.
Facebook said the group, known In the security industry like SideCopy, shared links to websites that host malicious software that can monitor people's devices. The targets included people linked to the government, the military and law enforcement agencies in Kabul, it said. Facebook said it removed SideCopy from its platform in August.
The social media company, which recently changed its name to Meta, said the group created fictional characters by young women as "romantic lures" to build trust and trick targets into clicking phishing links or downloading malicious chat apps. It jeopardized legitimate websites for manipulating people to give up their Facebook information.
Major online platforms and email providers including Facebook, Twitter Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Microsoft Corp.'s LinkedIn have said they have taken action to to lock in the accounts of Afghan users during the Taliban's rapid takeover of the country last summer.
Facebook said it had not previously revealed the hacking campaign, which it said increased between April and August, due to security concerns for its employees and the need for more work to explore the network. It said it shared information with the US State Department at the time of the operation, which it said had worked "with good resources and sustainability."