New app to counter malicious approaches online

An innovative app, allowing users to identify fake profiles used by foreign spies and other malicious actors, and take steps to report them and remove them, has been launched today.

In the last year, over 10,000 UK nationals from across society have been targeted on such sites as LinkedIn and Facebook. The use of fake profiles on social media sites is happening at scale. In the first half of last year alone, LinkedIn stopped 11.6m fake accounts at registration.

The new app is part of the Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s (CPNI) ‘Think Before You Link’ campaign. It has been developed with behavioral scientists to include such features as a profile reviewer, which will help identify potential fake profiles and report anything they deem suspicious.

The launch of the app comes as increased espionage by state actors persistently threatened the UK, and is currently conducted online.

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay, Lead Minister for Cyber ​​Security said:

The online threat via social media is increasing, with LinkedIn and Facebook profiles being created on an industrial scale.

Many of these profiles are established by the Government of the National Security Agency.

It is therefore vital that we can protect ourselves and our information, ensuring that we do not know who they are. This new app will be an important tool in that endeavor.

LinkedIn, with this carrying the risk of fake offers of lucrative consultancy work if they connect with unknown users. This app will boost the support and advice of government staff, especially receiving a sensitive policy, already receive.

New tools, such as the ‘Think Before You Link’ app, will allow users to conduct their own digital due diligence and to increase awareness of the growing threat from digital espionage to UK citizens.

Director General of MI5 Ken McCallum said:

MI5 has seen over 10,000 dispensed with professional networking sites from foreign spies to people up and down the UK. Foreign spies are actively working to build relationships with those working in government, in high-tech business and in academia.

The Think Before You Link app helps those who are receiving disenfranchised approaches, helping them to conduct their own digital due diligence before accepting unknown contacts online.

Vincent Devine, the Government Chief Security Officer said:

Hostile actors can easily access online research into the individual’s interests, activities and personal and professional connections. They can then use that information to target the individual online.

The Think Before You Link app is an effective way for government staff and the public to protect themselves against those threats.

Notes to editors:

  • The app is freely available to download on the Google Play or Apple store from today.
  • New research released today by the University of Portsmouth suggests that around 16.8m LinkedIn users in the UK When asked specifically about fake profiles and the motives of perpetrators more generally, users of LinkedIn and Facebook were most likely to think of trolling (80%), fraud (80%) and fake news (79%), rather than economic espionage (64 %). Over half of users (53%) could not name a state that posts fake profiles. And yet, three quarters say they have known link requests from suspicious profiles.
  • The University of Portsmouth’s research was conducted by Professor Mark Button and Dr David Shepherd of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Portsmouth. It is involved in a survey of 1,000 UK professionals who use either LinkedIn or Facebook for professional networking. The survey data was collected in April 2022. For the University of Portsmouth press office contact: [email protected]; for an interview with Professor Mark Button contact [email protected] mobile: 07968 911405; work: 023 9284 3923.
  • Click here for more information on the LinkedIn report.

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