Foreign spies have a new weapon in their mission to gain information: LinkedIn.
The site has become a goldmine for foreign spies looking to steal secrets from American companies. According to several law enforcement professionals, these sophisticated agencies – based in China and Iran – are setting up fake profiles, adding contacts, then gathering as much information as possible.
“Data is the currency of our lives, and companies have all the data,” said Former FBI counterintelligence operative Eric O’Neil in an interview with CNBC.
Government officials have released warning saying that Chinese and Iranian spies are making directed efforts to target people on LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft.
A United States department of Justice official told CNBC: “Of the recent U.S. intelligence officers who’ve flipped and gone to work for the Chinese, some of them were recruited by LinkedIn.”
The following tweet highlights the problem:
Those contacts you made on LinkedIn? They just might be spies: LinkedIn is a 'gold mine' for spies seeking corporate, govt secrets https://t.co/78nvbF5kCN— Eamon Javers (@EamonJavers) November 8, 2019
LinkedIn says it has been working on the problem for years, but that some responsibility needs to fall on the user. In a statement, the company said they have taken action against millions of accounts, blocking them both before and after they are created.
While people think they would never fall for it, what you need to remember is that these are highly sophisticated government agencies. Main profiles are set up with full work history, then supported by other profiles to increase their legitimacy.
So what can you do to stay safe? Remember that not everything you see online is legitimate. Never send company information via direct message. If an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is!