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In one case, a GE Aviation engineer was duped into giving up trade secrets when he was invited to speak at a Chinese university by someone who federal authorities said was actually a Chinese intelligence officer.
In another, a person claiming to be a research fellow connected with and spent months trying to recruit a former White House official, according to the report. But the fellow doesn’t exist.
One former CIA employee was even sentenced in May to 20 years in prison for providing China with details of top-secret operations after a spy posing as a recruiter messaged him on LinkedIn.
William R. Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, told the Times that China’s intelligence services have been “doing this on a mass scale.”
“Instead of dispatching spies to the U.S. to recruit a single target, it’s more efficient to sit behind a computer in China and send out friend requests to thousands of targets using fake profiles,” he said.
Nicole Leverich, a LinkedIn spokesperson, told FOX Business that the company actively searches for and removes fake accounts using information from a variety of sources, including government agencies. The company said it took action on 21.6 million fake accounts between January and June, most of which were blocked at registration.
“We enforce our policies, which are very clear: The creation of a fake account or fraudulent activity with an intent to mislead or lie to our members is a violation of our terms of service,” Leverich said.
LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, is particularly attractive for foreign spies because many of its 645 million users are looking for jobs and list their credentials, such as security clearances for government workers, on their profiles, according to the report.
Leverich said LinkedIn recommends its members only connect with people they know and trust.
Other social media companies have taken steps to stop Chinese interference on their platforms. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all said they suspended accounts last week that were linked to disinformation campaigns related to protests in Hong Kong.