Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

MI5 chief Ken McCallum: Foreign spies are targeting officials online

MI5 director general Ken McCallum has warned that foreign spies are using networking sites to target people of interest (Yui Mok/PA)
MI5 director general Ken McCallum has warned that foreign spies are using networking sites to target people of interest (Yui Mok/PA)

Foreign spies are using online networking sites to target thousands of Government officials, high-tech businesses and academics, the head of MI5 has warned.

The Security Service’s director general, Ken McCallum, said more than 10,000 “disguised approaches” had been made by agents seeking to build relationships with their targets.

The Government warned that fake profiles were being created on sites including LinkedIn and Facebook on an “industrial scale”, with many being used as a ruse in an attempt to gain information relating to national security.

The Government’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has launched a new app aimed at preventing people from being duped by fake accounts.

Mr McCallum said: “MI5 has seen over 10,000 disguised approaches on professional networking sites from foreign spies to people up and down the UK.

“Foreign spies are actively working to build relationships with those working in Government, in high-tech business and in academia.”

He said the Think Before You Link app helps those who may be receiving disguised approaches to conduct their own “digital due diligence” checks before accepting unknown contacts online.

Current and former civil servants can be attractive targets because of their experience.

The app will boost the support and advice which Government staff, particularly those working on sensitive policy, already receive.

State Opening of Parliament
Steve Barclay said fake profiles were used as an ‘elaborate ruse’ to gain access to sensitive information (James Manning/PA)

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Steve Barclay, the minister responsible for cyber security, said: “The online threat via social media is increasing, with fake profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook being created on an industrial scale.

“Many of these profiles are established as an elaborate ruse for eliciting details from either officials or members of the public who may have access to information relating to our national security.

“It is therefore crucial that we do all we can to protect ourselves and our information, ensuring those who we connect with online are who they say they are. This new app will be an important tool in that endeavour.”

Officials pointed to a report from LinkedIn which showed 11.6 million fake accounts were stopped at the registration stage in the first six months of 2021.

The site, widely used by professionals as a networking tool, bans fake profiles and requires that members “are real people who represent themselves accurately and contribute authentically”.

A spokesperson for LinkedIn said: “Our Threat Intelligence team actively seeks out signs of state sponsored activity and removes fake accounts using information we uncover, and intelligence from a variety of sources, including government agencies.

“Our Transparency Report sets out the actions that we take to keep LinkedIn a safe place where real people can connect with professionals they know and trust, including that 97% of the fake accounts we removed were blocked at registration.

“We welcome the continued efforts in the UK of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Politics team

More from the Press and Journal