HACKERS from Pakistan targets influential Afghan nationals during ‘Kabul fall’

By Our Staff Reporter

Islamabad: Hackers from Pakistan used Facebook to target people in Afghanistan with connections to the previous government during the Taliban’s takeover of the country, the company’s threat investigators claimed in an interview with Reuters.

Disclosure by the management of Facebook came as Taliban’s regime completed 100 days since they took over Kabul.

Media reports quoted Facebook authorities as saying that he group, known in the security industry as SideCopy, shared links to websites hosting malware which could surveil people’s devices. Targets included people connected to the government, military and law enforcement in Kabul, it said. Facebook said it removed SideCopy from its platform in August.

Unfolding detail regarding modus operandi of hackers, Fac said the group created fictitious personas of young women as “romantic lures” to build trust and trick targets into clicking phishing links or downloading malicious chat apps. It also compromised legitimate websites to manipulate people into giving up their Facebook credentials.

Major online platforms and email providers including Facebook, Twitter Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp’s LinkedIn have said they took steps to lock down Afghan users’ accounts during the Taliban’s swift takeover of the country this past summer.

Facebook said it had not previously disclosed the hacking campaign, which it said ramped up between April and August, due to safety concerns about its employees in the country and the need for more work to investigate the network. It said it shared information with the US State Department at the time it took down the operation.Investigators also said Facebook had last month disabled the accounts of two hacking groups which it linked to Syria’s Air Force Intelligence.

Facebook said one group, known as the Syrian Electronic Army, targeted human rights activists, journalists and others opposing the ruling regime, while the other targeted people linked to the Free Syrian Army and former military personnel who had joined opposition forces.

Facebook’s head of global threat disruption, David Agranovich, said the Syria and Afghanistan cases showed cyber espionage groups leveraging periods of uncertainty during conflicts when people might be more susceptible to manipulation.

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