China Uses Fake LinkedIn Accounts for Espionage, U.S. Says

U.S. counterintelligence accused Chinese espionage agencies of recruiting Americans with access to government and commercial secrets by using fake LinkedIn accounts, urging the company to shut these accounts down.

Intelligence and law enforcement officials have informed LinkedIn about China’s “super aggressive” efforts on the site, said William Evanina, the head of the U.S. National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center. According to him, the Chinese campaign includes contacting thousands of LinkedIn members at a time, even though he didn’t disclose the exact number of fake accounts, the number of Americans contacted or the rate of success China has had in its efforts.

Beijing had also previously tried to recruit as spies German and British citizens, who were later warned by authorities about such attempts. However, this is the first time a U.S. official has publicly disclosed such a problem, Reuters writes.

Evanina called on LinkedIn to follow in the steps of Twitter, Google and Facebook and purge the fake accounts. “I recently saw that Twitter is cancelling, I don’t know, millions of fake accounts, and our request would be maybe LinkedIn could go ahead and be part of that,” said the counter-intelligence chief.

Linked said earlier this month that it had taken down “less than 40” fake accounts whose users were attempting to contact LinkedIn members associated with unidentified political organizations, but it didn’t say whether the accounts were Chinese.

“We are doing everything we can to identify and stop this activity,” said the company’s head of trust and safety, Paul Rockwell. “We’ve never waited for requests to act and actively identify bad actors and remove bad accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources including government agencies.”

China quickly rejected Evanina’s allegations, saying, “We do not know what evidence the relevant U.S. officials you cite have to reach this conclusion. What they say is complete nonsense and has ulterior motives.”

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