Chinese intelligence services using fake social media profiles to gather data

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth


Germany’s intelligence service has published the details of social network profiles which it says are fronts faked by Chinese intelligence to gather personal information about German officials and politicians.

I think it’s fair to say that social networks have become a major front in covert cyberwar between governments. And you can see why:

“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,” including seeking data on users’ habits, hobbies and political interests, [Germany’s intelligence service] said.

The digital shadows of ourselves we create online are more valuable than we realise. Intelligence data that would have required months of work by field operatives in the past can be gathered in days or hours online.

Two things:

  1. Remember the people who sneered at social media because it was about “what you had for lunch”? Underestimating a new tech is a profoundly dangerous thing to do.
  2. Anyone who adds anybody who makes a connection request on social media, including LinkedIn “because it builds influence” is a Category A Idiot.
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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.