Experts: Spy used AI-generated face to connect with targets
Research by the Associated Press has uncovered what seems to have been a state-run espionage campaign centering on a fake LinkedIn profile that managed to connect with various influential people in Washington. Moreover, experts believe that the people behind the campaign used artificial intelligence (AI) to generate the profile picture of Katies Jones, the name of the phantom account.
As the world’s biggest social media platform for professional networking, LinkedIn is a very interesting platform for state-backed cyber espionage operations. According to William Evanina, director of the US National Counterintelligence and Security Center, China in particular uses the platform as part of “mass scale” espionage campaigns. In the first stage of such campaigns, threat actors usually set up a bunch of phantom accounts and link them together. Then they send out thousands of connection requests to potential targets. If a few people accept the request, the legitimacy of the fake profile increases, making it more likely that others will agree to connect as well. When a potentially interesting connection has been established, the threat actors will reach out to the target via personal messages.
These campaigns can lead to the disclosure of sensitive information by unsuspecting people, or even in recruitment efforts for cyber espionage campaigns. Just last month, a retired CIA officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison because he leaked data on classified operations to Chinese intelligence officials who had initially approached him through a fake LinkedIn profile.