A mobile phone app has been launched to help social media users detect fake profiles and speed up their removal.
The Think Before You Link app will help people spot the characteristics of fraudulent profiles used by spies and other malicious actors, according to the Cabinet Office and the Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure.
Last year, MI5 warned that at least 10,000 people in the UK had been approached by spies posing behind fake profiles on LinkedIn with the intention to obtain and share secret information within the past five years.
The government said more than 10,000 people in the UK had been targeted on LinkedIn and Facebook in the past year.
MI5 Director General Ken McCallum said malicious profiles were being used on an “industrial scale”.
Current and former government officials are often attractive targets due to their experience and may be sent bogus consulting job offers if they connect with unknown users.
Research by the University of Portsmouth has indicated that the threat of ‘economic espionage’ is often overlooked by users, who are more aware of the risks of trolling and fraud – but 75% of people say they have received requests for profiles they find suspicious.
The app was developed in cooperation with behavioral scientists and includes features such as a profile reviewer, which will help users identify fake profiles and report anything suspicious.
McCallum said: “MI5 has seen over 10,000 disguised approaches on professional networking sites, from foreign spies to people across the UK. Foreign spies actively work to build relationships with those working in government, high-tech companies, and academia.
Steve Barclay, the government’s chief cybersecurity minister, said: “The online threat via social media is growing, with fake profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook created on an industrial scale.
“Many of these profiles are established as an elaborate ruse to extract details from officials or members of the public who may have access to information relating to our national security.
“It is therefore crucial that we do all we can to protect ourselves and our information, ensuring that those we connect with online are who they say they are. This new application will be an important tool in this company. »