British spies were accused yesterday of giving gifts to Chinese agents and endangering national security by bragging about their secret work on LinkedIn.
A Daily Mail investigation found more than 1,000 people exposed themselves as potential targets by declaring their status in breach of government regulations, including military counterintelligence officers and GCHQ analysts.
Workers who pass background checks on their money, family and sexual orientation can access material classified as Top Secret.
It comes as MI5 Director General Ken McCallum issued a ‘stunning’ warning last week about the threat posed by China, whose influence in Britain has led to a sevenfold increase in spy investigations .
He also warned of the dangers of websites like LinkedIn, which are used to target academics, businesses and government officials.
One thousand four hundred and twenty-two British employees shared their expanded verification status on LinkedIn, according to a Mail audit, giving enemy operators a ready supply of single targets. These included:
a former RAF communications expert who gave top secret briefings to GCHQ, MI6 and NATO;
a senior member of the Navy’s T-26 global warship program, which is building a frigate to pursue Russian nuclear submarines;
an F-35B fighter test pilot, the nation’s primary attack vehicle for the next three decades;
a rocket scientist who openly bragged about having ratified the Official Secrets Act.
The pages were found by The Mail through searches of publicly available LinkedIn pages. Security services are particularly concerned about Chinese involvement, despite concerns about Russian espionage.
Mr McCallum claimed MI5 has doubled its capacity to counter Beijing’s spies and issued a stern warning that greater expansion is needed to prevent China from taking the ‘crown jewels’ of British companies and institutions .
He said MI5 was investigating 100 ‘intelligence leads’ from an app which was introduced in May to stop foreign spies exploiting online sites to lure businessmen, academics and government officials.
Before accepting unknown contacts online, Think Before You Link software allows potential targets to conduct their own “digital due diligence” assessments.
A University of Buckingham intelligence expert, Professor Anthony Glees, called LinkedIn “one of the most serious threats to national security today” and called the revelations “terrifying”.
If I were a member of Russian military intelligence, he said, I would do everything in my power to find out more about Britain’s anti-aircraft missile and drone programs. A logical first step would be to use LinkedIn to find people familiar with these programs.
“These people are freely and recklessly giving our enemies access to their knowledge.”
The 16th Air Assault Brigade, an elite unit meant to be on alert in case troops were sent to support the Ukrainian war effort, had a profile that belonged to a senior officer assigned to it.
Whether in the UK or Germany, he added, he was looking for a new position that would capitalize on his strengths in research, analysis, communication and leadership.
The delivery of the next generation of electronic surveillance platforms for the British military was the responsibility of another telecoms specialist.
Others included a network engineer who helped implement cybersecurity measures for the Ministry of Defense and a naval officer in charge of a £300million signals intelligence programme.
The Mail also used LinkedIn to locate 14 members of the MoD team who were constantly briefing the Ukrainian military on the Russian invasion. They were composed of a drone surveillance expert, a cybersecurity expert and an AI programmer.
A former military intelligence colonel named Philip Ingram called these links to online resumes with mailing and mobile addresses an “open target for spies” because they were present on multiple accounts.
Announcing your access to state secrets, he said, is stupid. On LinkedIn, I once met a Chinese spy who tried to use me as an asset by posing as a businessman who demanded a paper on security and counterterrorism. The idea was to get to know each other and then ask for more private information. information.
“I had the privilege of working in counterintelligence for years, so I was able to recognize what was going on.” Few people can afford it.
“You don’t give out your home location, phone number, and security clearance status to a stranger in a store, so why would you do that online?”
“We do not comment on the security clearance of individuals,” a government spokesperson said.