German intelligence agency says China uses LinkedIn as a spying tool

11 Dec 2017

German intelligence says Chinese agents use LinkedIn to mine for information. Image: luisbotaro/Shutterstock

Germany’s domestic security agency says fake LinkedIn profiles targeted German politicians.

The Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) is the domestic intelligence agency in Germany, and it has published details of LinkedIn profiles that it says are used by Chinese intelligence to collect personal information about German politicians.

Thousands of citizens contacted

Reuters reported that nine months of research saw more than 10,000 German citizens being contacted on LinkedIn by profiles disguised as consultants or headhunters. The BfV named individual profiles it says are fake as well as fake organisations to warn public officials about keeping their valuable personal details safe.

The BfV said: “Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkedIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way.”

It also said that there could be a large number of “target individuals and fake profiles that have not yet been identified”.

The head of the BfV, Hans-Georg Maaßen, said the accounts show how China is trying to infiltrate top-level German politics, according to the BBC.

Some of the accounts included Lily Wu, who reportedly works in a think tank in eastern China, and Allen Liu, allegedly a HR manager at an economic consultancy. Eight account names were publicised by the BfV, which believes them to be fronts for Chinese agents mining for information about politicians, diplomats and other officials.

LinkedIn as an informant recruitment path?

The BfV is concerned that Chinese intelligence is using LinkedIn to recruit prominent politicians as informants, and urged those who believe they were contacted by suspect accounts to get in touch with them.

This new development follows on from last year, when the BfV said cyber-espionage was “intensifying”.

This does not seem to be a problem that is confined solely to Germany either, as Reuters found that a number of the fake profiles were also connected to diplomats and politicians from other European countries.

LinkedIn app. Image: luisbotaro/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects