Dutch employees of high-tech companies are a popular target for Chinese and Russian spies. The news is reported by Financieel Dagblad, a Dutch newspaper. National intelligence agency AIVD sounds the alarm.
According to Financieel Dagblad, many employees of Dutch high-tech companies are stalked on LinkedIn by Chinese and Russian spies. Over the past ten years, employees have received thousands of contact requests from these countries. The national intelligence agency AIVD is concerned about this.
The spies set up fake accounts for their activities, posing as fellow scientists or engineers. They can also pretend to be consultants or recruiters on LinkedIn. After initial contact, the spies often attempt to make the relationship more personal by, among other things, flattering the ‘attacked’ employees about knowledge or expertise. In a later stage, the contact may be strengthened in person at an event or conference.
If the spies pose as recruiters, fake job interviews can be set up. If information is shared about a current employer, the information can be used to blackmail in a later stage. By posing as recruiters, the spies pressure unsuspecting employees into sharing more information than they normally would. Chinese or Russian expats living in the Netherlands are pressured with threats towards their family members.
According to the AIVD, Chinese and Russian spies use LinkedIn to thoroughly approach potential victims. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Instagram are constantly copied and stored in databases. The databases are filtered to discover potential targets, especially employees with access to high-end technology. The data is combined with personal information obtained from the respective company to get the best possible target profile.
The targets are given a ranking based on influence, position in the business network and access to important information. Based on the ranking, it is determined who is approached.
Position of high-tech companies
Dutch high-tech companies allow their employees to use LinkedIn. The Financieel Dagblad writes that employees of NXP, among others, must first check the content of their posts to see if everything is ‘legally’ correct. Although ASML does not prohibit employees from using the business social network either, the organization briefs its personnel on possible risks.
According to the AIVD, the growing number of requests from spies to Dutch employees gives reason to start an awareness campaign. This campaign aims to make Dutch employees and civil servants aware that spies can approach them via LinkedIn for information.
The intelligence agency also wants a broader mandate from the Tweede Kamer (House of Representatives) for more clout against industrial espionage. The AIVD hopes to defend national security, companies and the Dutch economic force.