Chinese intelligence agents have flooded LinkedIn with fake profiles of young professionals in an attempt to pervade German business and politics, warned Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) on Sunday.
According to Maassen, Chinese spies have used LinkedIn to contact some 10,000 German citizens with intent to recruit them as informants. Out of the eight most-active fake profiles, one posed as a human resources manager, another as a representative of a think tank in China, and others as consultants, scholars and policy experts.
“This is a broad-based attempt to infiltrate in particular parliaments, ministries and government agencies,” Maassen 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. The infections are difficult to detect, since network connections between service providers and their customers aren’t suspicious. This gives the attacker an even better disguise than before,” the BfV said.
China denied the accusations on Monday, as it has in the past when accused of cyberespionage by Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, India and the United States.
“We hope the relevant German organizations, particularly government departments, can speak and act more responsibly, and not do things that are not beneficial to the development of bilateral relations,” responded Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.
According to the Czech Republic’s Security Information Service (SIS), there is strong evidence of growing Chinese espionage operations targeting European companies, while the BfV reported last year “increasingly aggressive cyber-espionage” infiltration with parliamentary elections.