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Chinese spy uses LinkedIn to target British tech officials

Written by Thu 24 Aug 2023

A Chinese spy targeted thousands of British officials and attempted to extract secrets through LinkedIn, according to a report.

An investigation by The Times found an intelligence officer for Beijing’s main spy agency tried to gain sensitive information by bribing civil servants and officials working in the military and technology.

The Chinese spy used aliases on LinkedIn to establish communication with these officials.

Threat actors and phishing scam operators can pose as employees of legitimate companies without verification or security checks on LinkedIn.

Last year, LinkedIn added a feature that allows users to check when a profile was created and last updated to help identify suspicious accounts.

“We are under attack and it’s very difficult for businesses to admit that to their shareholders. The attacks are more significant for some companies than for others. For some, this is thousands of attacks a day,” said Glenn Buff, cybersecurity expert and member of the all-party parliamentary group on cybersecurity.

Buff said to Sky News that he would like to see LinkedIn do more about how accounts are verified.

“If China were to do something we didn’t like, the limits of what we could do in terms of sanctions make it extremely difficult for us, so we need to be more honest about the kind of attacks we are experiencing,” added Buff.

LinkedIn confirmed that it can scan the site for evidence of spying.

“Our threat prevention and defence team actively seeks out signs of state-sponsored activity and removes fake accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources, including government agencies,” said a LinkedIn spokesperson.

Spies target tech

Last year, MI5 chiefs warned that China is using espionage to target the UK’s tech and research sectors.

“The most game-changing challenge we face comes from the Chinese Communist Party. It’s covertly applying pressure across the globe. We need to talk about it. We need to act,” said Director General of MI5 Ken McCallum.

McCallum stated the aim was not ‘to cut from China’, but to engage with China wherever it is ‘consistent with our national security and our values’.

“We’re not talking about Chinese people – in whom there is so much to admire. We wholeheartedly welcome the Chinese diaspora’s hugely positive contribution to UK life,” McCallum added.

In 2019, Reuters reported that China’s intelligence services compromised the networks of some of the world’s biggest technology service providers, including HPE and IBM.

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Written by Thu 24 Aug 2023

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