Social Media’s Newest Frontier? Espionage.

Let’s state an obvious fact: Social media has revolutionized the way in which the world communicates. What once took months over an ocean, by horse, by rail, a message could be written, delivered, and replied by someone on the other side of the world all in the span of reading this sentence.

We celebrate and laud that our social media feeds are custom filled with friends, family, and companies that we love. If you’re looking for love then there is a plethora of dating sites from which to choose. Inspiration for your home, family, car, pet? There is a network for that! Looking for work? Plenty of professional social network options out there geared towards almost every industry and field to join.

Which is why recent news that Germany is accusing China of using LinkedIn to recruit informants, aka “spies” should not surprise anyone, especially in today’s geopolitical environment.

China is accused of crafting thousands of fake profiles from prospective headhunters and companies. After making connections and sharing information, Chinese agents allegedly offered money for sensitive contract work, and free trips to conferences in China. This is part of an on-going investigation by German authorities while Chinese officials vehemently deny any government involvement.

“The safety and security of our platform is always a top priority.”  –  LinkedIn statement

You can read more of this must-read story here. While spy recruitment & covert mercenary methods have long been utilized by nearly every country on earth for centuries, this story does have its roots in issues that have plagued The Internet Age since the beginning:

  • Online safety
  • Cyber security
  • How much is too much personal info on the Internet?

Moving forward, we can only expect to see more of these sorts of tactics as cybercrimes continue to grow. Those with nefarious intentions will always be looking for the weakest point to exploit.

Thankfully, there are always ways to protect yourself in the social media age. Some tips:

  • It is imperative to always do routine online safety checks. Your cyber security is like a car: Both need routine maintenance!
  • Take advantage of each network’s help center. Account & privacy settings are constantly being revised so always make it a point to familiarize yourself with the updates.
  • Read up on other users’ tips and comments to ensure you are getting the most out of your social media experience while no one is getting the best of you.
  • Do you even know what apps on your phone have what permissions? Take a look; chances are you will be shocked.
  • You spend how much on your phone, apps, services….so pay a couple dollars a month to protect your phone.

Hopefully you will begin to incorporate more cyber security awareness into your social media usage. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, but still, one must continue to be vigilant and proactive in your online safety. This is especially important since you can’t depend on the safety of an ocean or a multi-month journey anymore.