China's using LinkedIn to recruit spies… again

I don't think that I've ever met anyone that actually enjoys using LinkedIn. I mean sure, depending on what you do for a living, it might help you land a new gig. Maybe, it can help you to network with folks within your industry. But it's awful. On the occasions where I need to use it in order to get hold of a PR rep from some hard-to-reach tech firm, I've always found it slow to load and a drag to navigate. That said, the problems that folks like you and I have leveraging the platform for anything useful might not be enough to keep a motivated employer from using the social media platform to track down top-shelf talent.

From the New York Times:

Foreign agents are exploiting social media to try to recruit assets, with LinkedIn as a prime hunting ground, Western counterintelligence officials say. Intelligence agencies in the United States, Britain, Germany and France have issued warnings about foreign agents approaching thousands of users on the site. Chinese spies are the most active, officials say.

"We've seen China's intelligence services doing this on a mass scale," said William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, a government agency that tracks foreign spying and alerts companies to possible infiltration. "Instead of dispatching spies to the U.S. to recruit a single target, it's more efficient to sit behind a computer in China and send out friend requests to thousands of targets using fake profiles."

Lazy access to potential intelligence assets? Why the hell not? With LinkedIn, it's easy to focus in on individuals with access to information that your government's horny for. Want to know more about a the development of a new military aircraft or a research project being undertaken, under wraps at an American university? Just look up the profiles of individuals who, through their employment or academic credentials, might have access to either. Sending out multiple friend requests is the modern, digital equivalent of throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks. If no one gives you what you're after, you've lost nothing but a few moments of time in front of a laptop. But if you happen to find someone willing to be bent in a way that helps you towards your goals? Whoa, Nelly.

It's not just LinkedIn that's being hunted. According to the New York Times, the Chinese government is also scrolling through Facebook and Twitter accounts looking to secure fresh meat for their witting intelligence asset grinder.

Honestly though, is anyone really surprised by this? We're living in a world where national governments, terrorist groups and other greasy entities do the majority of their dirt online. The spread of disinformation, targeted viruses released in support of national interests and the digital defamation those trying to make the world a better place, have become commonplace. The idea that someone might have been recruited over social media to spy on their country or company feels like small potatoes in the grand scheme of things.


Image via Wikipedia Commons