Finding from an investigation by security staff at Facebook has revealed that Uyghur activists and journalists living in the United States were targeted by Chinese hackers with the aim of spying on them.
“They targeted activists, journalists and dissidents among Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities from Xinjiang in China primarily living abroad in Turkey, Kazakhstan, the United States and other countries,” Facebook said in a post on Wednesday that provided details of its findings about the cyber espionage campaign.
Facebook said that in order “to enable surveillance”, the Chinese hackers has fed the electronic devices of the targets with malware. The hackers had also secretly installed spying software in some cases by compromised or impersonated news websites that are popular among the Uyghurs.
“This group used fake accounts on Facebook to create fictitious personas posing as journalists, students, human rights advocates or members of the Uyghur community to build trust with people they targeted and trick them into clicking on malicious links,” the company said.
The social media company said that research by FireEye, a cybersecurity company, had helped Facebook in some of its finding.
China was officially determined by the United States in January this year of still continuing to commit genocide and crimes against humanity against Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic and religious minority groups who live in the northwestern region of Xinjiang. China has vehemently denied the allegations.
Internment camps in the region are being used by Chinese authorities to illegally detain as many as an estimated 2 million Uyghurs, as well as members of other Muslim minority groups, the US State Department has previously stated.
While not pinning the blame for the hacking attempts directly on the Chinese government in Beijing, Facebook said that the hackers “had the hallmarks of a well-resourced and persistent operation.”
On previous occasions, iPhones and Android devices have been hacked by hackers linked to the Chinese government for targeting Uyghurs.
According to Facebook, the hacking groups that it has identified in its investigation to be behind the latest campaign are known in the cybersecurity industry as “Evil Eye” and “Earth Empusa”. These groups have on previous occasions been accused of being involved in hacking and spying campaigns.
This revelation by the social media company precedes an appearance of the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg before Congress together with the chiefs of Twitter and Google.
It is expected that among other things, Zuckerberg will be asked about the role that was played by Facebook in fueling the US Capitol riot on January 6 this year.
Social media platforms including Facebook were criticised widely for letting Russian trolls posing as American to use the platforms for trolling in the run up to the 2016 Presidential elections of the US. Since that time, Facebook has made it appoint to publicly name any government or other entities that it has found to be engaged in nefarious activities using its social media platform.
(Adapted from CNN.com)