The China Threat
Foreign Intelligence Services Use Social Media Sites to Target People with Security Clearances
China and other foreign governments are using professional networking social media sites to target people with U.S. government security clearances. Foreign intelligence services may use fake profiles, seemingly benign requests, the promise of lucrative payouts, and other tactics to try to gain non-public and classified information for their benefit. The FBI urges everyone—especially those who hold (or have held) security clearances—to be cautious when approached by individuals online regarding career opportunities.
This film—inspired by the case of former CIA officer Kevin Mallory—details the fictional account of a former U.S. Intelligence Community official who was targeted by China via a fake profile on a professional networking site and recruited to turn over classified information before being arrested. Through this film, The FBI and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center seek to raise awareness of this issue and help individuals in the private sector, academic and research communities, and other U.S. government agencies guard against this threat.
- It’s too good to be true: Be suspicious of jobs offering remote or flexible work and a disproportionately high salary for the role advertised.
- Flattery: Your contact may overly praise or focus on your skills and experience or refer to you as a “high-end” candidate (especially if your government affiliation is known).
- Scarcity: There may be an emphasis on so-called limited, one-off, or exclusive opportunities.
- Lack of depth/detail: There may be a lack of any visible or verifiable company information available online and/or the role itself lacks tangible details.
- Urgency: Your contact might be overly responsive to messages and may attempt to rush you off the networking platform onto another communication method.
- Imbalance: There may be a disproportionate focus on the company you are being recruited for rather than the company validating you as a possible candidate.
- Review your account settings on social and professional networks to control the information that is publicly available, especially relating to security clearances.
- Only form contacts online with people you know or after you have verified as legitimate in another way.
- Notify your security officer of any contact from companies or individuals you are suspicious of.
- If you are a former U.S. government clearance holder, contact your nearest FBI office to report malicious targeting on professional networking social media sites or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
- Think Before You Link
These materials from the U.K. Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure provide advice on how to recognize malicious online profiles, realize the threat they pose, respond appropriately, and minimize the risk of being targeted in the first place.
- Press Release: FBI and NCSC Release New Movie to Increase Awareness of Foreign Intelligence Threats on Professional Networking Sites and Other Social Media Platforms