Espionage and LinkedIn: How Not to Be Recruited As a Spy

Jul 2, 2019 | 09:00 GMT

In the same way that companies use LinkedIn to spot and recruit talent, intelligence agencies use it to spot and recruit spies.



  • Intelligence agencies have always used open source intelligence to spot people with access to the programs or information they are attempting to collect. 
  • The internet provides such agencies with more open source information than ever; some sites, such as LinkedIn, are particularly useful for spotting people with access to desired information or technologies. 
  • By understanding how intelligence agencies use LinkedIn and other social media platforms, one can take steps to avoid or mitigate the threat.

The risk that hostile intelligence services will use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool has been widely reported. One such report, by Mika Aaltola at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs published in June 2019, focused on Chinese activity on LinkedIn. The phenomenon is not, however, confined to Chinese intelligence operations. All intelligence agencies exploit the platform, something illustrated by the Iranian-linked hack of Deloitte in which LinkedIn was used to set a virtual honey trap. Even so, the number of reported cases attributed to the Chinese -- including cases I've written on like that of former intelligence officers such as Kevin Mallory, or corporate espionage cases such as one involving an engineer at GE Aviation -- suggest their intelligence services are among the most active and aggressive users of LinkedIn as a recruitment tool. And this makes mitigating the threat critical, whether on LinkedIn or any other social media platform....

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