China’s spy agency created fake LinkedIn profiles to infiltrate political and business circles, a German intelligence service has said. Fake profiles of policy experts and academics were used to court decision-makers.
Germany’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) said some 10,000 German citizens have been targeted in an intelligence operation by Chinese spies, who primarily used the professional networking platform LinkedIn to infiltrate political circles.
“Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkenIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way,” the BfV said.
BfV chief Hans-Georg Maassen said China’s spy agency created several fake profiles posing as consultants, policy experts, scholars and headhunters. Many of the profiles include pictures of stylish young professionals.
One of the accounts was credited to “Laeticia Chen,” who claimed to be a manager at the “China Center of International Politics and Economy.” The profile image was taken from an online fashion catalogue.
“The infections are difficult to detect, since network connections between service providers and their customers aren’t suspicious,” the BfV said. “This gives the attacker an even better disguise than before.”
China’s European escapade
Over the past decade, intelligence services in the West have warned of growing Chinese espionage, especially activity targeting European companies.
In October, the Czech Republic’s Security Information Service (SIS) warned that Chinese spying increased in the past year, using available information networks to promote interests in the EU country, including attempting to suppress concerns about Tibet.
The Czech intelligence agency added that China also engaged higher-risk cyber espionage activities, according to military intelligence sources.
In July, Germany’s BfV warned that foreign governments, including China, Russia and Turkey, have bolstered industrial espionage efforts in the country, amounting to billions of euros in costs to the German economy each year.