MI5 boss warns that foreign spies are using fake profiles on LinkedIn

MI5 boss warns that foreign spies are using fake profiles on social media sites like LinkedIn to target 10,000 UK officials with access to sensitive material and sites

  • Ken McCallum said that fake accounts were being used on an ‘industrial ‘scale’ 
  • New campaign by The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure 
  • ‘Think before you link’ campaign aimed at people working in sensitive sectors

Foreign spies have used social media platforms like LinkedIn to target 10,000 officials in the UK and abroad who have access to sensitive information and locations, the head of MI5 warns today.

Ken McCallum said that fake accounts were being used on an ‘industrial ‘scale’ in an attempt to steal state secrets.

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), which is part of MI5, said that the 10,000 figure, which covers the past five years, was likely to be a conservative estimate. 

Targets include people working in defence and security sectors, civil servants, pharmaceuticals  and other sensitive industries.

The CPNI is running a ‘think before you link’ campaign aimed at people working in these areas. 

Launching the campaign, Mr McCallum, who became the director general of MI5 last year, told the Times: ‘Malicious profiles on professional networking sites are being utilised on an industrial scale’.

Mr McCallum, who became the director general of MI5 last year, told the Times: ‘Malicious profiles on professional networking sites are being utilised on an industrial scale’.

The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), which is part of MI5, said that the 10,000 figure, which covers the past five years, was likely to be a conservative estimate.

The CPNI is running a ‘think before you link’ campaign aimed at people working in sensitive industries, warning people they could be giving access to dubious foreign regimes.

It comes as the UK attempts to take a harder line with Russia and China over spying.

On Monday it was revealed foreign spies operating in Britain will be prosecuted and deported under new laws to protect the country from hostile states.

The Queen’s Speech on May 11 will reportedly be used by the Prime Minister to announce a bill outlining measures to protect Britain from the likes of Russia and China.

It will mandate that all individuals working on behalf of foreign governments in the country will have to register their presence – not doing so will become a criminal offence, The Times reported.

 Intelligence agencies have warned that under current laws, foreign spies are immune from the law unless they are caught acquiring official secrets.

It is believed that Britain will aim to have a similar register to the Foreign Agents Registration Act in the US, which extends to anyone representing the interests of a foreign state.

The Official Secrets Act, which is intended to protect the United Kingdom from espionage, will be updated so it can be used against anyone attempting to undermine Britain’s interest from abroad.

With some parts written in 1911, ministers hope to adjust the legislation so it can be used against those carrying out foreign cyberattacks.

They are also considering whether to raise the maximum sentence – which is currently two years for most offences – for any breaches of the act.

It comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain stood in ‘full support’ of Czech government after the country’s police confirmed they were searching for two men who were suspects in the Salisbury novichok attack.

The Czech Republic is expelling 18 Russian diplomats it has identified as spies in a case related to an explosion at an ammunition depot in the town of Vrbetice in 2014.

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