A top German intelligence officer said over the week that China is using social networks to spy on German citizens.
Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, said on Sunday that his agency, BfV, has identified at least 10,000 German citizens that have been targeted by China’s cyber espionage activities. Many of the victims were politicians and officials at German government agencies.
"This is a broad-based attempt to infiltrate in particular parliaments, ministries and government agencies," said Maassen.
By using the professional networking platform Linkedin, Chinese agents have created false profiles as headhunters, consultants and researchers to collect information on the targeted individuals.
"Chinese intelligence services are active on networks like LinkedIn and have been trying for a while to extract information and find intelligence sources in this way," said the agency.
BfV named the fake profile with the account name "Laeticia Chen," who held the job title of manager at the "China Center of International Politics and Economy.” The profile image for this account was stolen from an online fashion catalog.
Specifically, the hackers are targeting service providers. Maassen pointed out that the agents are using “supply-chain attacks,” where they strategically target IT workers.
“The infections are difficult to detect, since network connections between service providers and their customers aren’t suspicious,” said the agency to the Associated Press. "This gives the attacker an even better disguise than before."
As usual, China is denying these claims.
"We hope the relevant German organizations, particularly government departments, can speak and act more responsibly, and not do things that are not beneficial to the development of bilateral relations," said Lu Kang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.
But this is just one of the many recent instances where China was caught cyberspying.
“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,” writes DW. “The Czech intelligence agency added that China also engaged higher-risk cyber espionage activities, according to military intelligence sources.”
Earlier this year, the billionaire business magnate Guo Wengui said that China has a huge spy network in the U.S. with 25,000 agents. He also said the country’s intelligence budget is between $3 to $4 billion a year.
“They have successfully penetrated all the major defense weapons suppliers of the US government," said Guo. "The scale of their operations is mind-boggling.”
Author's note: This isn’t surprising to us, but it is alarming how aggressive China's cyber attacks are getting. As technology advances, the more we become vulnerable to these types of attacks. This means that our cybersecurity needs to be one step ahead.