[Updated] Chinese spies used fake LinkedIn profiles to target 10,000 Germans

Arif Bacchus

Here in the United States, much focus has been put on Russian run Facebook or Twitter accounts being used to sway the 2016 Presidential election. Noted by the BBC, it turns out that the Microsoft owned professional network LinkedIn is also at the center of some political controversy, apparently being used in China by Intelligence officials to target up to 10,000 Germans.

This is all according to the BfV, the German Intelligence agency which recently released some of the LinkedIn profiles being used to “subvert top-level German politics.” There were up to eight popular active LinkedIn accounts being used for this purpose, and all are designed to look enticing to promote fake young Chinese professionals.

Turns out, though, the accounts with names such as “Allen Liu”, and “Lily Wu” were fakes. One person on their profile page claims to be a human resources manager at an economic consultancy and another was claiming to work at a think tank in eastern China. BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen explained in a brief statement to the BBC.

“This is a broad-based attempt to infiltrate in particular parliaments, ministries and government agencies”

Reports indicate that the otherwise innocent-looking accounts may have been used to recruit high-ranking German politicians as informants. Users who may have come into contact are being urged to contact the BfV. We reached out to Microsoft for comment on this issue and will update this story accordingly.

Update: Microsoft forwarded us to a LinkedIn spokesperson, who issued the following statement:

“We have restricted the accounts in question, as part of our ongoing investigation, for violating our terms of service. The safety and security of our platform is always a top priority. We do not provide details on specific accounts.”