Skip to main content

LinkedIn reportedly used by some nations to recruit spies

LinkedIn isn’t only an excellent way to find new business opportunities and network with others who work in the same field. It’s also a great way for foreign powers to recruit spies, according to a New York Times report published on Tuesday, August 28.

The practice has been going on for a number of years, the report claims, with Western counterintelligence officials from several nations warning some individuals to be wary of foreign agents using the social networking site for recruitment purposes. Officials speaking to the Times described Chinese spies as “the most active” on LinkedIn.

William R. Evanina, director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, a government agency that warns companies of possible infiltration attempts, told the Times that Chinese operatives were using LinkedIn “on a massive scale” and contacting “thousands of people at a time.” He added that it was more efficient for the operatives to quickly engage with multiple targets through the site and invite them to China under the guise of a business trip than sending spies to the U.S. for a single recruitment effort for information that might include corporate trade secrets, intellectual property, and valuable research.

Bogus connections

The Times’ report listed a number of examples where persons of interest were being contacted by individuals from China. Upon closer inspection, however, the personal and business details of some of those making contact failed to match with their original claims, raising suspicions over who exactly was making the approach.

It also cited the case of former CIA employee Kevin Patrick Mallory, who was handed a 20-year jail term earlier this year after being found guilty of conspiring to pass national defense information to a Chinese intelligence officer. The FBI said the Chinese operative first made contact with Mallory via LinkedIn, posing as a think-tank representative before developing the relationship.

As the Times points out in its report, LinkedIn is an appealing tool for Chinese operatives partly because it’s the only mainstream U.S. social media platform that’s allowed to operate in China after the company agreed to censor some of its content. Also, many of its 645 million global users are actively on the lookout for new business opportunities, so anyone can contact them with an offer to set up an initial meeting, whether bogus or not.

With social media services well known to be a tool for all kinds of nefarious activities instigated by foreign powers, news that LinkedIn is apparently being used as a recruitment tool in the murky world of espionage will surprise few. But at the same time, LinkedIn knows it will have to work on improving its detection techniques if it’s to escape increased scrutiny that could ultimately lead to measures impacting its service.

LinkedIn said it employs a team to remove fake accounts when it finds them, adding that fraudulent activity or the creation of a bogus account with the aim of misleading its members “is a violation of our terms of service.” The Chinese Foreign Ministry has so far declined to comment.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
How to go live on TikTok (and can you with under 1,000 followers?)
Tik Tok

It only takes a few steps to go live on TikTok and broadcast yourself to the world:

Touch the + button at the bottom of the screen.
Press the Live option under the record button.
Come up with a title for your live stream. 
Click Go Live to begin.

Read more
Bluesky barrels toward 1 million new sign-ups in a day
Bluesky social media app logo.

Social media app Bluesky has picked nearly a million new users just a day after exiting its invitation-only beta and opening to everyone.

In a post on its main rival -- X (formerly Twitter) -- Bluesky shared a chart showing a sudden boost in usage on the app, which can now be downloaded for free for iPhone and Android devices.

Read more
How to make a GIF from a YouTube video
woman sitting and using laptop

Sometimes, whether you're chatting with friends or posting on social media, words just aren't enough -- you need a GIF to fully convey your feelings. If there's a moment from a YouTube video that you want to snip into a GIF, the good news is that you don't need complex software to so it. There are now a bunch of ways to make a GIF from a YouTube video right in your browser.

If you want to use desktop software like Photoshop to make a GIF, then you'll need to download the YouTube video first before you can start making a GIF. However, if you don't want to go through that bother then there are several ways you can make a GIF right in your browser, without the need to download anything. That's ideal if you're working with a low-specced laptop or on a phone, as all the processing to make the GIF is done in the cloud rather than on your machine. With these options you can make quick and fun GIFs from YouTube videos in just a few minutes.
Use GIFs.com for great customization
Step 1: Find the YouTube video that you want to turn into a GIF (perhaps a NASA archive?) and copy its URL.

Read more