Facebook Sues Firm For ‘Celeb Bait’ Adverts That Installed Malware

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Social networking giant takes action against advertising fraud with a lawsuit against Hong Kong firm

Facebook has announced that it has filed a lawsuit in California against a Hong Kong company and two people.

The social networking giant alleged that ILikeAd Media International Company Ltd and Chen Xiao Cong (a software developer) and Huang Tao (a marketeer), baited people into clicking on celebrities’ photos and bogus advertising links, so it could install malware and run ads for counterfeit goods, diet pills and male enhancement supplements.

Facebook said the firm and the two individuals violated its terms and advertising policies. Advertising is the core money-making operation for Facebook.

Facebook lawsuit

“The defendants sometimes used images of celebrities in their ads to entice people to click on them, a practice known as ‘celeb bait’,” said Facebook.

“In some instances, the defendants also engaged in a practice known as cloaking,” it added. “Through cloaking, the defendants deliberately disguised the true destination of the link in the ad by displaying one version of an ad’s landing page to Facebook’s systems and a different version to Facebook users.”

Facebook said this enabled the defendants to hijack users’ ad accounts, known as “account take over fraud.”

Facebook said that cloaking schemes are often sophisticated and well organised, which in turn makes it difficult to identify the individuals and organisations behind them.

“As a result, there have not been many legal actions of this kind,” it said. “In this case, we have refunded victims whose accounts were used to run unauthorised ads and helped them to secure their accounts.”

The refund is reported to be as much as $4 million, Reuters reported.

It also said the Facebook complaint filed in the federal court in San Francisco (Northern District) and is seeking unspecified damages and a Facebook ban.

NSO lawsuit

Last month Facebook itself was sued by staff at Israeli security specialist NSO.

The lawsuit, filed in the Tel Aviv District Court, alleges that Facebook has unfairly blocked the private social networking accounts of NSO staff.

It comes after Facebook-owned WhatsApp had sued NSO in late October, alleging it was behind the cyberattack earlier this year that infected devices with advanced surveillance tools.

In May 2019, WhatsApp urged all of its 1.5 billion users to update their software to fix a vulnerability that it said was being actively exploited to implant advanced surveillance tools on users’ devices.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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