Russia, China spying on Dutch companies via LinkedIn: report
Secret services from China and Russia are systematically approaching thousands of employees at Dutch high-tech companies via fake accounts on LinkedIn. They pose as fellow scientists or technicians, or consultants or recruiters and try to get to company secrets through blackmail or bribery, Financieele Dagblad reports based on information from general intelligence service AIVD.
The AIVD is so concerned about the scale of this type of espionage that it is launching a warning campaign on social media later this week. The campaign will make Dutch employees and officials aware of the dangers.
AIVD investigation showed that China and Russia work very systematically, AIVD director Erik Akerboom said to the newspaper. "Social networks like LinkedIn or Instagram are continuously copied and stored in databases. They analyze them to get their sights on targets. They are people who have access to special technological knowledge. The data is combined with information from outright hacks in their organization, in which specific personal data is sought."
After first contact through LinkedIn, the spies quickly make the relationship "more personal," Akerboom said. They flatter their target about their knowledge and expertise. "You get the request to translate something. Then they may make personal contact at a conference." Two Russian spies expelled from the Netherlands in 2020 first approached their victims on LinkedIn, Akerboom said to FD.
According to Cody Barrow, director of threat analysis at cybersecurity firm EclecticIQ in Amsterdam, "many thousands of Dutch people" have received LinkedIn requests from Chinese spies in the past decade. Targets often accept requests uncritically, especially if the requester already shares contacts with them. Many people are also prone to flattering comments, Barrow said. He estimates that about half of the targeted Dutch people accepted the request, he said to FD.
Dutch high-tech companies NXP and ASML told FD that they don't ban their employees from having LinkedIn profiles. "We do have protocols for the information that people share on social networks," a spokesperson for chip manufacturer NXP said. Chip machine maker ASML said it warns employees of the risks of such social media accounts.