Civil servants warned of spying link to social media contacts

MI5 says more than 10,000 incidents have been recorded as campaign flags threat from fake business profiles
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By Jim Dunton

20 Apr 2021

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has launched a campaign to warn civil servants of the security dangers posed by contacts made through business-related social media platforms.

Its “Think Before You Link” project flags the risks posed by hostile states’ use of sites such as LinkedIn and the potential for officials to be blackmailed and for the security of legitimate members of their networks to be compromised.

The centre, which is part of MI5, said criminals and hostile actors often posed as recruiters or talent agents offering “enticing opportunities” as part of information gathering exercises. 

“The consequences of engaging with these profiles can damage individual careers, as well as the interests of your organisation, and the interests of UK national security and prosperity,” it said.

MI5 said it was aware of more than 10,000 cases in which UK nationals “across virtually all government departments and key industries” had been approached by “malicious profiles” over the past five years. 

It said the figure involved “premier professional networking sites” and was likely to be a conservative estimate.

The Think Before You Link campaign urges civil servants and other government employees to recognise the potential threat from existing or potential contacts, report them to their security manager and remove the individuals from their network.

CPNI said its campaign guidance also provided practical advice on how to respond to suspicious networking requests and how to “minimise the risk of being targeted in the first instance”.

One of the campaign videos uses the theme of an invite to make a presentation at a prestigious international conference as the pretext for establishing a social media network connection.

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