Chinese espionage agencies are using fake accounts on the social network Linkedin to recruit Americans with access to trade and government secrets, a former US intelligence agent said in an interview on Friday.
US intelligence and security officials have alerted the company to a “super-aggressive” campaign that involves contacting thousands of Americans at a time, the director of the US National Security and Counterintelligence Center told Reuters in an exclusive interview, William Evanina.
The official did not reveal whether there was any information regarding the success of China’s efforts, nor did it reveal how many people would have been contacted by China’s intelligence.
But Evanina identified a person he claimed was recruited through the Chinese effort, Kevin Mallory, a retired CIA officer who was convicted in June of conspiracy and espionage for China.
Evanina told Reuters Mallory was contacted by Chinese spies via Linkedin in 2017, before agreeing to sell US defense secrets to the Chinese.
He also pointed out that Linkedin should follow measures similar to those of Twitter and Facebook, which recently acted to exclude accounts allegedly used by intelligences from other countries. Evanina also accused Russia, Iran and North Korea of using Linkedin for the same purposes.
The head of the social networking security area for work connections confirmed that US security officials contacted the company about espionage allegations. He said Linkedin is doing everything in its power to identify individuals involved and remove their accounts.
China’s Foreign Ministry was heard by Reuters and said Evanina’s charges are “completely absurd” and based on undeclared motives.
However, such actions by China cannot be dismissed, especially as in recent times it has purged CIA officers operating in the country. This effectively means that Beijing is undertaking its own actions against US aggression to infiltrate its governmental and security systems with spies.