While the Democrats and their MSM minions continue to obsess about the alleged Trump-Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, for which special investigator Robert Mueller has produced not a shred of credible evidence in more than a year, little attention is given to Chinese espionage. See:
- Chinese govt killed CIA spies, after hacking into Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server
- Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s personal driver of 20 years is a Chinese spy
The latest: China is using LinkedIn, the social media for professional networking, to recruit Americans with access to government and commercial secrets.
Warren Strobel and Jonathan Landay report for Reuters, August 31, 2018, that the head of the U.S. National Counter-Intelligence and Security Center, William Evanina, said in an exclusive interview that intelligence and law enforcement officials have told LinkedIn about China’s “super aggressive” campaign, using fake accounts to contact thousands of LinkedIn members at a time. Evanina said LinkedIn should emulate Twitter, Google and Facebook, which have all purged fake accounts allegedly linked to Iranian and Russian intelligence agencies.
China’s Ministry of State Security has “co-optees” – individuals who are not employed by intelligence agencies but work with them – set up fake LinkedIn accounts to approach potential recruits who are experts in fields such as supercomputing, nuclear energy, nanotechnology, semi-conductors, stealth technology, health care, hybrid grains, seeds and green energy. The co-optees — who have been linked to IP addresses associated with Chinese intelligence agencies or set up by bogus executive-recruiting companies — use bribery or phony business propositions in its recruitment efforts. Academics and scientists, for example, are offered payment for scholarly or professional papers, then asked or pressured to pass on U.S. government or commercial secrets.
China’s foreign ministry disputes Evanina’s allegations: “We do not know what evidence the relevant U.S. officials you cite have to reach this conclusion. What they say is complete nonsense and has ulterior motives.”
A senior U.S. intelligence official, who requested anonymity in order to discuss the matter, said “some correlation” has been found between Americans targeted through LinkedIn and data hacked from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in 2014 and 2015. The hackers stole sensitive private information, such as addresses, financial and medical records, employment history and fingerprints, of more than 22 million Americans who had undergone background checks for security clearances. China is identified as the leading suspect in the massive hacking, an assertion China’s foreign ministry at the time dismissed as “absurd”.
Joshua Skule, the head of the FBI’s intelligence division charged with countering foreign espionage in the United States, said China is “conducting economic espionage at a rate that is unparalleled in our history,” and that about 70% of China’s overall espionage is aimed at the U.S. private sector, rather than the government.
While Russia, Iran, North Korea and other nations also use LinkedIn and other platforms to identify recruitment targets, U.S. intelligence officials say China is the most prolific and poses the biggest threat. German and British authorities have warned their citizens that Beijing is using LinkedIn to try to recruit them as spies. But this is the first time a U.S. official has publicly discussed this problem in the United States. It is also highly unusual for a senior U.S. intelligence official to single out a company by name and publicly recommend it take action. LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, boasts 562 million users in more than 200 counties and territories, including 149 million U.S. members.
LinkedIn’s head of trust and safety Paul Rockwell said LinkedIn “is a victim here” and that “We are doing everything we can to identify and stop this activity. We’ve never waited for requests to act and actively identify bad actors and remove bad accounts using information we uncover and intelligence from a variety of sources including government agencies.” Earlier this month, LinkedIn had taken down “less than 40” fake accounts, but Rockwell declined to provide numbers of fake accounts associated with Chinese intelligence agencies.
U.S. counter-intelligence chief William Evanina gave the example of Kevin Mallory, 60, a retired CIA officer convicted in June of conspiring to commit espionage for China.
A fluent Mandarin speaker, Kevin Mallory was struggling financially when he was contacted via a LinkedIn message in February 2017 by a Chinese national posing as a headhunter. The individual, using the name Richard Yang, arranged a telephone call between Mallory and a man claiming to work at a Shanghai think tank. Even though Mallory assessed his Chinese contacts to be intelligence officers, during two subsequent trips to Shanghai, Mallory agreed to sell U.S. defense secrets, sent over a special cellular device he was given. He is due to be sentenced in September and could face life in prison.
Evanina said five current and former U.S. officials – including Mallory – have been charged with or convicted of spying for China in the past two and a half years. Additional cases of suspected espionage for China by U.S. citizens are being investigated.
Some current and former officials post significant details about their government work history online – even sometimes naming classified intelligence units that the government does not publicly acknowledge. Evanina said LinkedIn “is a very good site. But it makes for a great venue for foreign adversaries to target not only individuals in the government, formers, former CIA folks, but academics, scientists, engineers, anything they want. It’s the ultimate playground for collection.”
U.S. intelligence services are alerting current and former officials to the threat and telling them what security measures they can take to protect themselves.
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