China is using fake LinkedIn profiles to gather information on German officials and politicians, the German intelligence agency (BfV) has said.
The agency alleges that Chinese intelligence used the networking site to target at least 10,000 Germans, possibly to recruit them as informants.
It released a number of fake profiles allegedly used for this purpose.
BfV head Hans-Georg Maassen said the accounts show China’s efforts to subvert top-level German politics.
The fake profiles were disguised as headhunters, consultants, or scholars with names “Rachel Li” and “Alex Li”, and attempted to trick people into “connecting” with them in order to extract information on people’s habits, hobbies and political interests, according to the intelligence agency.
Examples of known spurious LinkedIn users include “Lily Wu,” whose profile says she works at a think tank in eastern China, and “Allen Liu,” who claims to be a resources manager at an economic consultancy
Over the past decade, intelligence services in the West have warned of growing Chinese espionage, especially activity targeting European companies.
In October, the Czech Republic’s Security Information Service (SIS) warned that Chinese spying increased in the past year, using available information networks to promote interests in the EU country, including attempting to suppress concerns about Tibet.
The Czech intelligence agency added that China also engaged higher-risk cyber espionage activities, according to military intelligence sources.
Once contact was made, the Chinese spies would try to launch a professional exchange of views and information, followed by invitations to conferences and other events in China.