German officials may want to offer some of their LinkedIn contacts endorsements for "espionage" and "subterfuge." Per Reuters, the country's BfV intelligence service has revealed that Chinese intelligence operatives are setting up fake social-media accounts and attempting to connect with senior diplomats and politicians not only from Germany, but from a bunch of European countries. The nine-month probe found that the fraudulent accounts, in which operatives posed as headhunters or academic professionals, reached out to at least 10,000 German citizens on LinkedIn in an attempt to find out about everything from their hobbies to which way they leaned politically. The New York Times reports the Chinese spies would dangle free trips to China and meetings with big-name clients to their newfound online acquaintances to try to get them to spill info.
The head of the BfV says this outreach has been a "broad attempt to infiltrate parliaments, ministries, and administrations." The Times notes it's just one way China could try to spy on foreign businesses and governments by culling info on foreign and economic policy that would perhaps give it a leg up in the marketplace. Reuters notes many of the social media profile images were of attractive, stylish young adults, with at least one pic found to be lifted from an online fashion catalog. The BfV says it's sharing this info to warn officials to be careful about posting and sharing too much about themselves on social media. China, however, doesn't agree with the BfV's assessment. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs rep said this news was "complete hearsay and groundless."