Facebook sues Chinese malware operator for abusing its ad platform

Facebook sues ILikeAd and two Chinese nationals for using Facebook ads to trick users into downloading malware.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor

Facebook filed a lawsuit today against a Chinese company and two Chinese nationals for abusing the Facebook ad platform to run a malware scheme.

The accused are ILikeAd Media International Company Ltd., a Hong Kong-based company founded in 2016, and Chen Xiao Cong and Huang Tao, the two men behind it.

Facebook said today that ILikeAd used Facebook ads to lure victims into downloading and installing malware.

Once installed, the malware would compromise victims' Facebook accounts and use access to these accounts to place new ads, on behalf of the infected users.

Facebook said ILikeAd sometimes used images of celebrities in their ads to entice people to click, a practice the company calls "celeb bait."

In addition, ILikeAd also used a technique called "cloaking."

Cloaking refers to hiding an ad's real destination URL. Advertisers who engage in cloaking serve a version of an ad's destination URL to Facebook scanners, but redirect real users to another web page, usually hosting malicious content.

"Cloaking schemes are often sophisticated and well organized, making the individuals and organizations behind them difficult to identify and hold accountable. As a result, there have not been many legal actions of this kind," Facebook's legal team said today.

The social network said it refunded victims whose accounts were used to run unauthorized ads on behalf of ILikeAd.

Facebook also said it helped these users secure their accounts, as their accounts were also compromised as part of this scheme.

This is the second lawsuit that Facebook has filed against a rogue advertiser this year. It filed a first in August against LionMobi and JediMobi, two China-based Android app developers. Facebook claimed the two companies ran a "click injection fraud" scheme against Facebook ads, by using fake clicks to increase revenues.

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