China with Globe and Pinpoints (Stock Image)

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.

The threat is real. Think before you link.

The Nevernight Connection 

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.

What Are the Signs You’re Being Targeted? 

  • 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.

What Should You Do? 

  • 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