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Foreign intel agencies' online 'tricks' revealed

By YANG ZEKUN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-26 10:12

In a post on its WeChat account on Monday, the Ministry of State Security revealed several online tricks that have been used by foreign intelligence agencies to obtain classified or sensitive information from China, reminding the public to be wary of such traps.

The ministry said that nefarious intentions could be hidden behind such fronts as offering low-interest loans, befriending people online and offering high-paying part-time jobs.

In one case, a veteran was caught out by the offer of an interest-free loan after his online gambling addiction drove him into enormous debt. Desperate to pay his bills, he searched for a loan online and unwittingly met an operative from a foreign intelligence agency posing as an online lender.

Upon discovering the veteran's military background, the operative offered him an interest-free loan in exchange for classified military information, promising the veteran not only debt relief but also the ability to get rich quickly.

Befriending people on social media platforms is also a common trap used by foreign intelligence agencies, the ministry said.

A man surnamed Liu, who lived near an important classified institution, encountered an "attractive woman" online and made friends. The woman greeted Liu warmly and sent him revealing photos.

Eager to win her favor, Liu complied with her request to take photos and survey the important facility near his home. National security agencies soon identified Liu's unlawful activities and promptly apprehended him.

Upon investigation, it was revealed that the "woman" was an operative from a foreign intelligence agency who used a virtual private network to connect with individuals near important facilities to steal sensitive information.

Spying through job hunting is another common trap. The public needs to be cautious and carefully screen the requirements of the other parties while searching for jobs online, said the ministry.

A technical professional in the defense industry surnamed Wang fell for a part-time job scam after facing financial trouble, the ministry said. He posted his job-seeking information on recruitment websites and emphasized his background in the defense industry to enhance his resume. Soon after, a "foreign consulting company" contacted Wang via email and offered him a high-paying consultancy position.

Captivated by their seemingly generous offer, Wang gradually lost his self-control. He agreed to provide classified military secrets in exchange for quick wealth. National security agencies detected the case in time and captured Wang.

In another case, a man surnamed Cao, an office clerk in a public institute with strong writing skills, became interested in making extra money by providing ghostwriting services online. Cao posted "ghostwriting" ads on multiple online platforms and was contacted by an operative from a foreign intelligence agency posing as "Commissioner Deng" from a foreign research institution.

After learning about where Cao worked, the operative hired him as a consultant and promised to fund his research work abroad.

Enticed by the grand promises from the operative, Cao became entrapped by a dream of becoming a "professor" abroad. He even contemplated selling classified documents. His acts were detected and stopped by national security agencies in time.

Foreign intelligence operatives also take advantage of certain hobby groups, such as military and technology enthusiasts, to get inside and classified information, the ministry said.

An employee in the aviation manufacturing industry surnamed Zhang joined several aero-model enthusiast groups on various social media platforms due to his professional expertise and interest.

During group chats, Zhang inadvertently revealed his involvement in the aviation manufacturing sector. A fellow online user quickly reached out to Zhang. The user requested photographs of new aircraft models from an air show and insisted on further obtaining internal photos of Zhang's workplace.

It was discovered that the online user was an operative from a foreign intelligence agency.

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