Facebook is a magnet for scammers, thieves and other bad actors looking to swindle and manipulate the social media giant’s vast pool of users. One group discovered by Facebook’s in-house researchers took such a sophisticated approach to bilking Facebook users that it walked away with $4 million in an elaborate ad fraud scheme that went undetected by its victims.
Sachit Karve, speaking both for himself and fellow Facebook security researcher Jennifer Urgilez, offered more details about this scheme at the VB 2020 conference last week. Facebook insiders call the group behind it SilentFade and discovered that it came from a Chinese malware ecosystem that used different types of malware in its cybercrime sprees.
Facebook discovered the malware family near the end of 2018 but traced its origins back to 2016. SilentFade has a keen focus on social media targets. “SilentFade is interesting to us as it explicitly targets users of social networks and more recently services with social components like Amazon,” Karve said.
The name SilentFade comes from “Silently running Facebook ads with exploits.” “The malware is capable of running ads on Facebook, without the user’s knowledge, by exploiting a bug on the platform,” Karve said at the conference.
Facebook first noticed something was wrong when traffic on the platform spiked on December 22, 2018. After digging into the traffic logs, the researchers found that some unknown malware was stealing Facebook cookies and credentials and was exploiting a vulnerability to stay hidden from compromised users.